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Slippery Rock postpones noise ordinance change

SLIPPERY ROCK — After months of discussion, Borough Council decided to postpone amending a noise ordinance following concerns and suggestions expressed by multiple residents at a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 19.

The proposed amendment would have placed a maximum allowable noise level of 90 decibels. The current ordinance lacks a maximum noise level. Without language restricting noise to a certain level, the ordinance is not enforceable.

Council will discuss the amendment further at its next meeting, during which possible revisions and exceptions to the ordinance will be considered.

“Public input is needed,” council president Jeff Campbell said.

After a resident expressed concern about regular yardwork breaking the 90 decibel level, council members stated they would consider making an exception for routine property maintenance between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

For reference, a lawnmower produces noise at around 90 decibels, and a chain saw can run at around 109 decibels, experts say.

Council also will review the ordinance’s language regarding continuous noise.

The maximum noise level of 90 decibels would be a “catch-all” for noise violations that commonly fall within that threshold, borough solicitor Rebecca Black said. Exceptions exist for continuous, oppressive noise, such as yelling, which falls under the measurable limit.

Black noted that the 90-decibel number was calculated by taking advice from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and conducting sound testing in the borough through Gateway Engineering. Ambient sound in the borough was measured at around 68.8 decibels late one afternoon.

Black shared that she didn’t think it would be in good faith for the borough to implement a noise limit lower than the borough’s current background noise.

“It would leave you potentially in a perpetual state of violation,” Black said.

“What we’re trying to do here is set a standard that is measurable and still allows for people to enjoy their property or work on their property,” council member Alexandra Tuten said.

“We’re not going to take this and police and go around with a decibel meter to everything that’s ever existed in Slippery Rock to see if it’s breaking the decibel limit,” Tuten said following public comment. She encouraged residents to talk to their neighbors and share their concerns with council.

Language surrounding the amendment is subject to change as council continues to review suggestions and concerns.

Borough manager Christian Laskey and council member Ron Steele encouraged residents to share concerns with council.

“If you have a concern, start coming to meetings,” Steele said. “Don’t wait until the last minute.”

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