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Covington exhausts changes to noise control ordinance
Council approves first reading of amended legislation

COVINGTON, Ga. — It’s a been a little too loud at the Covington Square lately for the city’s liking.

The Covington City Council convened via teleconference Friday afternoon, Oct. 23, for a special-called meeting to approve the first reading of an amended noise control ordinance. Community Development Director Trey Sanders said the proposed amendments stem from an increasing volume of loud vehicles traveling within the downtown area.

“It’s been pretty disruptive,” he said of the noise. “We’ve gotten a lot of complaints from citizens, too.”

The ordinance, as first read Friday, was amended in several sections, specifically targeting motor vehicles and mufflers. It was amended to state, “No person shall operate a motor vehicle at any time in such a manner that the exhaust noise is plainly audible at 200 feet.”

The definition of “plainly audible” was introduced as a new addition to the ordinance, which “means any sound that can be detected by a person using his or her unaided hearing faculties.”

Sanders said the amendment was not calling for a ban on “loud mufflers or loud vehicles.” Rather, it would simply give the city’s police department authority to write citations for “extensively loud vehicles” regardless of what muffler system — or lack thereof — a vehicle has. Citations would be issued at the officer’s discretion based on the ordinance’s guidelines, Sanders said.

Currently, police can only write a citation if the motor vehicle does not meet adequate equipment standards outlined in the ordinance.

Another amendment to the ordinance was to further specify the legal meaning of a “motor vehicle” to include “any motorcycle.”

Violators of the ordinance could be fined up to $1,000 or face up to 30 days in jail. Per the ordinance, offenders may be granted 15 days to address the vehicle’s sound issue.

Measured with a sound level meter using the A-weighting network (dB(A)), the maximum permissible sound levels throughout the city are as follows (listed by Receiving Land Use Category):

• Residential, noise-sensitive area, public space: 60 dB(A) from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; 55 dB(A) from 10 p.m.-7 a.m.

• Multifamily dwelling: 50 dB(A) from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; 45 dB(A) from 10 p.m.-7 a.m.

• Commercial: 65 dB(A) from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; 60 dB(A) from 10 p.m.-7 a.m.

• Industrial: 75 dB(A) at all times

For reference, a conversation in a restaurant or office, background music or an air conditioning unit heard at 100 feet measures 60 decibels, which is half as loud as 70 decibels, according to A vacuum cleaner’s output measures 70 decibels. Upper 70s are “annoyingly loud to some people” according to the website. A motorcycle heard at 25 feet registers 90 decibels, which is “four times as loud” as 70 decibels.

Specific prohibitions include:

• Horns, signaling devices — the sounding of any horn or signaling device on any motor vehicle continuously for a period in excess of 60 seconds, except as a danger warning.

• Street Sales — the offering for sale by shouting or outcry within any area, except by permit issued by the city.

• Animals — the owning, possessing or harboring of any animal which frequently howls, barks, meows, squawks or makes other sounds that create excessive and unnecessary noise.

• Powered model vehicles — the operating of, or permitting the operation of, powered model vehicles in such a manner as to exceed the levels set for public space land use, measured at a distance of not closer than 100 feet from the operator.

• Emergency signaling devices — except in case of an emergency or training, the intentional sounding of any alarm; the testing of any alarm for a period in excess of 60 seconds at any time; the testing of a complete emergency signaling system more than once in each calendar month, and the sounding of said emergency signaling system for a period in excess of 15 minutes.

Exemptions from the sound level limits include:

• Domestic power tools, lawn mowers and agricultural equipment, when operated with a muffler.

• Noises resulting from any authorized emergency vehicles when responding to an emergency.

• Noises resulting from the operation of the Covington Municipal Airport.

• Noises made during an event by persons having obtained an appropriate permit issued by the police chief.

• Any noise resulting from activities of a temporary duration, for which a special permit has been granted pursuant to this chapter, and which conforms to the conditions and limits stated thereon.

• Noises from bells or chimes emanating from places of worship.

A second reading of the amended ordinance will be read for approval at the council’s next meeting, Monday, Nov. 2.

During the meeting, the council also voted 4-3 to amend the 2021 Budget for the $30,000 donation to the Newton County Board of Commissioners for homeless shelter assistance. Council members Susie Keck, Fleeta Baggett and Don Floyd were opposed; Mayor Steve Horton broke the tie.