Shh! New noise rule in Ohio city could have some talking in a whisper

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SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio (WJW) – A northeast Ohio city has toughened its noise restrictions.

This week, Sheffield Lake City Council approved a revised noise ordinance that reduces the nighttime decibel limit from 50 to 40 decibels between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The daytime limit of 60 decibels and the vehicle decibel limit of 85 decibels remains unchanged. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 decibels are equivalent to a refrigerator hum and just above a soft whisper. Normal conversation falls at about 60 decibels and lawn equipment falls at about 80 to 90, which tops the city’s daytime restriction. However, the distance from the sound source to the meter affects the recorded levels.

The ordinance, approved Tuesday, also considers any sound that annoys or disturbs a reasonable person to be a noise disturbance.

Police can issue citations when noise exceeds the limit for more than five minutes when measured from the property line or if officers deem the noise disruptive.

Ward 2 Councilman Rocky Radeff said the council took up the matter after Mayor Dennis Bring received complaints from residents about loud music at night, but measured decibel levels were not high enough for police to issue citations.

“We’ve had various complaints in which they weren’t able to do anything,” Radeff said.

Radeff said enforcement will be complaint-driven and that the council reviewed other cities’ noise rules, finding them comparable to the revisions in the revised Sheffield Lake ordinance.

He said police officers will first issue warnings before citations, and the new limits are meant to address ongoing noise issues.

“People will probably be over at some point, but if no one’s making a complaint, the police aren’t just out here looking for people with a decibel,” Radeff said.

Some Sheffield Lake residents said the new restrictions go too far, while others said they support the change.

“It’s kind of silly,” Marianne Neel said. “The people who are having problems, I understand why they would like this, but we’re not having problems anywhere around us.”

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