Burlington’s new noise ordinance

It was with great dismay that I witnessed the city council ordinance committee’s debate on Wednesday regarding a new noise ordinance for the city of Burlington. Most people would agree that the current noise ordinance is not working well, but instead of addressing the underlying problems of the existing ordinance, the council decided instead to simply increase the penalties given to violators from 100 to 500 dollars, and expand the definition of a violator to “any person that participates in a party or social event” that creates noise audible from outside after 10 pm. This new provision allows for the possibility that a party of 20 people could be fined a total of 10,000 dollars for making noise after the ten pm curfew. The justification given by the committee for this outrageous increase in penalties was that “the current practice of the police is to only distribute one or two tickets.” Creating laws that are reliant on the current and undefined practices of the police is a terrible policy. Secondly it is obvious that the members of the committee are relying on the unequal enforcement of this new ordinance. The standard of unacceptable noise is defined in a way that makes it practically illegal to conduct any social event after ten pm. Do you think the committee would have passed this resolution if they expected the police to “bust” their next thanksgiving party that runs a few minutes late and hand out 5,000 dollars in tickets to their extended family alone? It is obvious that the current noise ordinance is not working, but simply stiffening the penalties is not going to help. It is time the council sat down and actually thought about practical solutions to Burlington’s noise problems. -Colin Kern [email protected]