Aiken City Council considers amendment to city noise ordinance

January 11 — The Aiken noise ordinance may see some changes soon.

Aiken City Council discussed an ordinance at its Monday meeting that would change the “noise” section of the city code.

The changes would include extending “daylight” hours in the downtown business district one hour later to 11pm, instead of 10pm, with all other areas of the city remaining at 10pm.

This means that residents could request noise deviations for events with live music and / or amplified sounds that last an hour later than is currently permitted, although such requests are still submitted to the review and approval by city staff and are not guaranteed approval.

The current noise ordinance defines daylight hours as between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday.

In the proposed new ordinance, daylight hours would be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday outside of downtown. Sunday hours would remain from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The ordinance lists construction and maintenance activities on the property, including landscaping and lawn maintenance, as permitted daytime activities.

The draft ordinance prescribes different decibel levels for daytime and nighttime hours, and includes a list of prohibited noises and exemptions.

In terms of enforcement, Deputy City Manager Mary Catherine Lawton noted that there is language that indicates noise does not have to exceed a decibel level to be considered a violation. An officer could use his or her own discretion, taking into account factors such as the volume, intensity and duration of the noise.

“There is flexibility there for an officer to go into the field and investigate and come to a conclusion,” Lawton said. “There is also language for the said officer to use a sound level meter (to) go and determine that the noise is excessive.”

This change is being considered as council wishes to “see our downtown embrace a larger residential component while recognizing that there is a different expectation for noise compared to residential properties in a more traditional neighborhood,” according to notes to the agenda.

The agenda notes also indicate that the draft of the revised noise ordinance has been shared with interested stakeholders, including the Aiken Neighborhood Council and the City Center Development Association. ‘Aiken, “who both supported the proposed changes.”

The first reading of the ordinance was adopted unanimously, 6-0. City Councilor Andrea Gregory was absent from the meeting.

The Council amended the measure on Monday, to ensure it would enter into force in April, if passed. The extra time would allow education and public awareness, members explained.

Residents wishing to view a recording of the meeting can visit the city’s Youtube page.

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