What is Noise?

I know you’ve been dying to know.
The City of Tallahassee is trying to come up with an anti-noise ordinance. The real reason is that they have erected an amphitheater next to an old, very nice residential area. Dear Old, Very Nice Residential Area People: this will not help you, because that amphitheater has been designated a Special Entertainment Area and will essentially be exempt from the imaginary noise ordinance. So sorry.
But other noises are not protected. Think, driving down the street, the car next to you is blasting some genre of music which makes the whole car vibrate, while the driver bounces up and down so that the whole car bounces. Car dancing. And your windows are rattling too. Is that noise?
Here, for your edification, is the definition of noise: “Any erratic, intermittent, or statistically random sound which causes a disturbance”. Statistically random? What the hell does that mean?
Next question: What is a noise disturbance? “Any sound which disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensibilities and exceeds the sound limit level set forth in this division”. Division? What division? Apparently the sound limit level has something to do with decibels. But how many? For how long? Reasonable people? Normal sensibilities? Give me a break.
This ordinance is doomed.
Noise is like pornography. You know it when you see (hear) it.
The best protection against noise is being deaf. Or wearing earplugs.
But let me say that I’m opposed to noise, whatever it is. When I used to live in New Orleans, there was a bar across the street from me called Dot’s Peppermint Lounge. It was fine when they kept the doors closed, but in summer, they were so packed with people and had such a weak air conditioning system they would open the doors. then I would start calling the police. Eventually I just started calling Dot’s in person saying, close the doors or I’ll call the police. We developed a friendly relationship.
In that case though, I lived just outside the French Quarter, where there is a mixture of residential and commercial everywhere. I could have moved. Not easily, but I could have. So I get that.
By contrast, I now live in an area where despite our best efforts, they built a Walmart. Before that happened, I could sit in my back yard and commune with bats. I love bats, because they eat mosquitoes, but I also love them just because they’re bats. The noise from the construction of Walmart drove them away, and they’ve never returned.
I’m not all empty talk and whining . I participated last week in a meeting between my County Commissioner, the County Administrator, and the head of Planning, and some fellow environmentalist type people. Planning Guy and I got into a little bit of a snit. But when I talked about the bats, he took notes. When I said, this is a wildlife corridor you can’t disrupt, he took notes. When I said, if you disrupt the environmental protections in this area, then you will shoot yourself in the foot. Nobody will want to live on a dead lake. When I said, development has always been allowed here, and whatever future development you envision here, it should enhance the lake, not detract from it. He took notes.
Go me. Go Bats. And go Planning Guy.

8 responses to “What is Noise?

  1. Government often exempts itself from its own laws. I believe Congress is still excluded from the Civil Rights laws…

    As for noise, only an “objective” standard will stand. “Reasonable” is a subjective, bogus term.

    As for noise, I can hear the PA, band and crowd roars from the NFC night football games. The school is about a half mile up the road from me. Now why is there a school in a clearly residential area? And why can’t they hold games in the day? Why is their noise “OK”?

  2. My thinking has always been that where one locates is almost always a matter of choice. I have made a habit of living in a “built out” development when possible or at least understanding the zoning before I bought. So far my two major homesteads have been perfect. Once, in transition, I rented a really nice apartment adjacent to MacDill AFB. Boy was I ready to break that lease.

  3. Sc, there is an objective standard related to decibels, but one person’s acceptable decibel level is another person’s noise. That was the problem in the first place with the original ordinance they tried to pass. They just can’t get around this. And having schools nearby is pretty much an acceptable definition of residential. It is supposed to have easy access to schools.
    Pt, I bet! When I first moved to Tallahassee, knowing nothing of the city, I looked at a house on the west side of town, and a plane flew over. One plane. Then I looked to see where the airport is and I went, no way! On my second (and last) trip to Europe we stayed in what we thought was a great find. A very cheap hotel in Athens which was next to the airport. There were no takeoffs or landings between midnight and 5 AM, so that was your window of sleep. Also the rooms had no air conditioning. Caveat emptor, for real.

  4. The LCPL has this book: http://www.amazon.com/Neighbor-Law-Fences-Trees-Boundaries/dp/0873376501
    One copy is at BL Perry (across from the main PO on S Adams).
    Basically, you don’t need a noise ordinance, you just sue as a private nuisance.

  5. A followup on the amphitheater: the stage faces the residential area; if the stage faced 180° the other way, toward the State buildings, there probably wouldn’t have been a problem.

  6. I didn’t even know that, lesle, the direction the stage faces. What genius designed that?

  7. What genius? Maybe Wayne Tedder. Is that your planning guy?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CFd1Ie9v5A (5:47)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKPAsTxq3xw (3:00)

    Click to access cascades_map.pdf

    I realize I’m straying from your post on noise, but if you haven’t been to Cascades Park, you should tour it at least once. No, it’s not Audubon Park, this is Tallahassee, but noise and amphitheater aside, “they” got it right for once.

  8. Yeah, Wayne is the Planning Guy. He wouldn’t have designed it, of course, but he would have coached and would have had to approve it initially.
    Sadly, I haven’t been yet but I certainly will go. Right now, for me personally, it’s too cold 🙂
    There is a lot right. They could have just built a functional storm water facility but spent some extra bucks to enhance it and make it a beautiful place. It’s in the perfect place, smack in the middle of downtown, and it honors the history of Tallahassee and Florida itself. I loved the whole idea, except for that little noise glitch.

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