City noise ordinance up for discussion by Prescott council
PRESCOTT - Local resident George Karsa likes to spend time attending events on the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, but more and more, he says, noise is keeping him away.
"It's just horrendous down there - mostly from motorcycles," Karsa said of the area surrounding the courthouse. "And it's getting exponentially worse."
On two separate occasions just recently, for instance, Karsa said motorcycles "revved it up so loud that they set off car alarms."
Overall, he said, downtown Prescott "is not a pleasant place to be anymore. The noise keeps me away."
Karsa advocates an expansion of the present noise code. "There is a code," he said, "but it has no teeth to it at all."
The city's noise ordinance will be among the topics of discussion at this week's Prescott City Council workshop. The meeting will take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.
But City Manager Steve Norwood said this past week that the recommendation that City Council members receive Tuesday likely would not include an ordinance change. Rather, he expects a move to beef up enforcement.
"We're probably just going to strictly enforce the existing one," Norwood said Thursday.
That enforcement likely would involve buying noise meters, which officers could carry with them on their patrols.
The meters would measure the decibel level of passing motorcycles, cars, and car radios, Norwood said, "And if it's excessive, the officer has discretion."
Police Lt. Andy Reinhardt said the complaints about noise are nothing new for Prescott.
"Every summer for the past number of years, we've had an influx of complaints," Reinhardt said recently. "The majority are in the downtown area and are motorcycle-related."
Police reports for the past 12 months show that dispatch received more than 600 calls from all over town relating to noise violations.
And Reinhardt noted that the police department does cite violators of the existing law.
Records for the past year shows that the police department issued several dozen tickets and warnings for violations such as loud music and squealing tires.
Currently, the city code states: "The creating, permitting or allowing of any unreasonably loud and disturbing noise within the city limits is hereby prohibited. An 'unreasonably loud and disturbing noise' is hereby defined as noise of such character, intensity or duration as to be detrimental to the life or health or well-being of any individual, or as to disturb the public peace and quiet of a neighborhood, family or person."
Specifically, the code lists loud music, construction equipment, squealing tires, outdoor loudspeakers, outdoor construction. But it also makes some exceptions, including governmental vehicles engaged in necessary public business, repairs of public utilities, and special events.
Arizona law also deals with noise levels, and it gets specific about motorcycles.
State statute says: "A person shall not operate or as an owner permit the operation of a motorcycle in this state that is not equipped with the manufacturer's original muffler or other original noise reduction equipment or with a replacement muffler or replacement noise reduction equipment capable of reducing the noise levels below the maximum operating noise levels established by this department..."
The statute also states: "A person shall not use a muffler cutout, bypass or similar device on a motorcycle operated in this state."
Reinhardt said the motorcycle restrictions have been difficult to enforce in Prescott, because they apply to areas of a grade of less than 1 percent, and many areas in Prescott exceed that grade level.