Noise and the Law
The Chapel Hill Noise Ordinance
The Town of Chapel Hill restricts the permitted noise level in residential areas to no more than forty-five (45) decibels at night (11:01 p.m. to 6:59 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 12:01 a.m. through 6:59 a.m. Friday and Saturday) and no more than fifty (50) decibels during the day. The measurement is taken at any point on or beyond the property line from which the sound originates. However, there is a means for obtaining permission to exceed these levels for certain occasions.
Permits To Exceed The Permitted Noise Level
A person or group may apply for a permit, specific to the time (daytime hours of Friday or Saturday only) and place of a planned activity, to produce sound no more than ten (10) decibels in excess of the normal sound levels allowed. In considering the permit, the Town Manager may consider the time and nature of the activity, the timeliness of the application, the duration of the event, other activities in the vicinity of the location proposed, the frequency of the application, the effect of the activity on residential areas, previous experience with the applicant, and any previous violations. Moreover, the Town Manager must determine that the granting of the permit would have minimum or no impact on the surrounding area, or that the event is of a community-wide nature. You must apply seven (7) days prior to the event.
And there's more: Permit holders agree to contact someone at every residential address within two hundred and fifty (250) feet of the property boundary of the site at least seventy-two (72) hours prior to its starting time. A signer of the permit must be available at the site of the event during the entire time for which the permit has been issued (to assist town officials in enforcing the ordinance).
It is unlawful to create, cause or allow the continuance of any unreasonably loud noise, particularly during nighttime, which interferes with neighboring residents' reasonable use of their properties. Nuisance noises include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Yelling, shouting, whistling or singing
- NOISY PARTIES
- Repairing motor vehicles
- Sound amplification equipment, television, or musical instruments
- Explosives and fireworks
- Security alarms (if unabated for twenty (20) minutes)
It is also unlawful to operate a vehicle sound system on public or private property, or a boom box on public property, if the sound is detectable more than thirty (30) feet from the source.
Violation Of The Noise Ordinance
A violation of the noise ordinance is punishable as a misdemeanor. It is cause for immediate revocation of a permit, and will prevent the violator from obtaining a permit to exceed noise limits for six (6) months.
There are many exceptions to the noise restrictions. Outdoor athletic events on campus, an official all-campus UNC event on campus (occurring no more than twice a year), street fairs, church bells, and similar reasonable activities are not affected.Verified June 2011