By Dan Moffett
In a measured and strategic attack against the enemies of peace and quiet, Manalapan town commissioners are putting new restrictions on noisy residents.
The commission has given preliminary approval to an ordinance that sets a 65-decibel limit on noise between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and a 55-decibel limit at all other times. The decibel readings would apply from a distance of 50 feet, and violators could face fines.
The attempt to quantify how much noise is too much noise comes after consultation with a sound engineer, weeks of legal study by Town Attorney Keith Davis and vocal complaints from several residents about their noisy neighbors.
At the Sept. 22 town meeting, Police Chief Carmen Mattox played recorded examples of measured sound levels made by common power tools, so commissioners could hear what they were getting into. Davis had warned that noise ordinances are among the hardest for municipalities to write and maybe even harder to enforce.
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the new limits are intended to give neighbors on adjacent properties an idea of how much sound is too much, especially in the evenings and on weekends.
“We thought that 50 feet was a fair reflection because that would be what you could hear coming over your neighbor’s property line,” Stumpf said.
The rewritten ordinance carves out exceptions for emergency work and construction with permits. It also allows some leniency for short duration noise, such as that made by lawnmowers and other landscaping equipment.
The commission will consider final approval for the new rules at the Oct. 27 town meeting.
In other business:
• The start date for the Audubon Causeway bridge project has been pushed back again because of the contractor’s busy schedule, this time until Oct. 19, according to Mayor Pro Tem Peter Isaac.
Drawdy Construction of Lake Worth is expected to begin staging the work area the week before, Isaac said, and the “280-day clock starts ticking” for the project’s completion. Workers will replace the south side of the bridge first and one lane will remain open for traffic.
• Commissioners decided against adopting an ordinance to restrict planting certain species of trees and landscaping on swales.
“What we have with this ordinance is a solution desperately seeking a problem,” said Mayor David Cheifetz.
The commission wants to ensure that landscaping on the swales doesn’t interfere with drainage. Cheifetz believes the best way to do that is administratively through the permit process.
Landscaping work costing $300 or more requires a permit, and town officials can work with homeowners to help them choose acceptable trees and plants.