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Residents Want Tougher Noise Law

By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer

November 27, 2007

When Sharon Lewis hears what she describes as the "boom, boom" bass of music coming from dance clubs in Hartford and the cars of partygoers, she says she can feel her blood pressure start to rise.

"I go crazy," said Lewis, who is a member of Hartford Citizens in Action and lives just off Tower Avenue near Main Street. "The number one reason people in my neighborhood are moving out is not violence. It is not crime. It is noise."

Lewis and nearly a dozen other Hartford citizens spoke at a public hearing Monday in favor of an amendment aimed at strengthening the city's noise ordinance. The amendment part of a push by the city to combat "quality of life" crimes would make any noise that is "plainly audible at a distance of 100 feet from its source, by a person of normal hearing," a violation of city law.

Persons cited for violating the city's noise ordinance appear before a judge, who can fine them as much as $90 or sentence them to as many as 25 days in jail.

The ordinance change still needs to be approved by the city council and the state's Department of Environmental Protection, officials said. The city council will hold a committee hearing on the changes at 4 p.m. today and will take up the matter for approval at its Dec. 10 meeting.

All those who spoke at the hearing were in favor of the changes, though some said the new law could be stronger.

The biggest problems, they said, were not only vehicles with loud speakers, but dance clubs and restaurants with outdoor patios; teenagers revving the engines of unlicensed all-terrain vehicles and "pocket-rocket" mini bikes; and noise caused by typical city bustle, such as sirens, buses, trains and traffic.

And although those who spoke publicly were in favor of the amendment to the ordinance, some in the audience grumbled under their breath about its enforceability. The law's language, they said, is too vague offering no definition of what constitutes "plainly audible" noise or "normal hearing." It also does not say how, or if, a police officer enforcing the law must measure 100 feet from the origin of the noise.

Still, Gladys Ellis, 70, of Albany Avenue in the city's North End, said senior citizens who endure Hartford's noise have earned the right to have a little quiet.

"Seniors have worked all their life to live in comfort," she said. "And now they can't even sleep at night."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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