In 2009, Americans took a variety of steps in response to excessive noise. We petitioned our representatives, wrote letters to the editor, drafted ordinances, destroyed property, intimidated or shot our neighbors, sued celebrities, and much more. In today’s year-end post here at Weird Vibrations, we summarize 2009’s most notable noise control stories. The review is organized according to where each item fits within the five branches of American government – legislative, executive, judicial, peer pressure, and vigilante justice.
– The city of Clio, Michigan passed an ordinance regulating roof-mounted wind turbines which, although “green,” produce a loud, annoying hum.
– In Venice Beach, California, the city proposed a lottery to deal with a plethora of street performers on the boardwalk. Local residents claimed they had become “captive listen[ers],” forced to hear music in their homes.
– In December, the CALM Act, which seeks to cap the volume of TV commercials, advanced from the House to the Senate. CALM stands for “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation.”
– A man in Mesa, Arizona wants to change local noise ordinances so that they apply to churches, which are currently exempt in all cases. According to the man, a local “Christian new-age church that plays rock music at weird hours” located 10 feet from his backyard not only disturbs him, but threatens to set a bad precedent for the entire city.
– New York City police raided a West Village club in a residential neighborhood after numerous noise complaints. A Greenwich Village Block Association member recalled that neighbors had dealt with similar problems in the past by simply purchasing the offending establishment in order to ensure a more quiet operation.
– The city of Devens, Massachusetts debated whether to shut down or fine a manufacturer of solar panels that recently moved to the area. Neighbors are demanding that the plant shut down operations at night.
– The Brainerd, Tennessee District Attorney asked police to shut down Club Deep Blue after a series of noise complaints. One neighbor claimed to have called the police over 300 times, to no avail. After the D.A. filed a petition, reporters found a sign on the club’s door reading “‘Closed due to racial descrimination (sic) within the Chattanooga City Government.”
– Noise complaints are on the rise in Columbus, Ohio, but for some reason police citations are down. Officers are at a loss to explain the discrepancy.
– A bishop in Phoenix, Arizona was convicted of disturbing the peace because the bells atop his newly-built church rang too frequently and at too high a volume. An attorney for the bishop claimed the ruling was a First Amendment violation. “We were living in a bell tower,” said one resident.
– One of her neighbors on the Upper West Side of Manhattan sued Madonna. From the complaint: “Madonna and one or more of her guests repeatedly dance and/or train in Apartment 7-A to unreasonably high-decibel amplified music.”
– The Georgia Supreme Court denied a claim by two University of Georgia-Athens students that a local noise ordinance restricted their freedom of expression with regard to playing music at parties. According to an article, a lawyer for the students said that “Volume should be constitutionally protected because it is to the artistic quality of music as light and shade are to paintings.”
– The city of Virginia Beach has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the state court overturned its local noise ordinance. The ordinance, which relied on the concept of a “reasonable [listener],” was said to be too vague.
– Responding to resident complaints about last year’s concert, the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco placed “sound monitors” in nearby neighborhoods, who could in turn contact “sound consultants” to assess disruptive noise and fix it between days of the festival. A complaint hotline was also established.
– Guanabanas restaurant in Jupiter Inlet Village, Florida, has tried its damnedest to be sensitive to neighbors’ noise complaints. According to the owner, John Zimmerman, no one from Sunni Sands, across the street, has complained since a series of acoustic renovations three years ago. Zimmerman even consulted with the owner of nearby Castaways restaurant and the Barrons Landing motel, but some residents apparently remain unsatisfied.
– An Erie, Pennsylvania man threatened a hunger strike to protest the noise from a pet food maker called Dad’s Products Co. down the street from his home. Harry Davies, 62, who built a shed in which to carry out the strike, wrote in a letter that “I guess you could say it’s either the noise or me.”
– The author of a motorcycle column in the Philadelphia Examiner suggested that proposed regulations on motorcycle exhaust pipes in New York State are discriminatory.
– 2009 witnessed a spate of complaints about grunting in women’s tennis. Critics charge that the grunts are tantamount to cheating by distracting one’s opponent, while defenders say it helps establish rhythm.
– A weekly San Francisco drag party was canceled voluntarily after neighbors approached the local Entertainment Commission about its noise. The organizers claimed the pressure was homophobic: “”The Polk no longer welcomes gay businesses.”
– A Charlestown, Massachusetts resident wrote a letter to the Commander of the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) complaining about the ship’s twice-daily cannon firing, a tradition that dates back to the 18th century. Most area residents seemed to feel that the firings should continue.
– An Arizona man was fatally shot after a confrontation with his neighbor over noise. “Now I have to take his body back and I had to tell his daughter that he’d never see his new grandchild,” said the slain man’s wife.
– Ashton Kutcher unleashed a viral video documenting his neighbor’s untimely construction work, which allegedly began some days as early as 7:00am. “I’m gonna lose it on this guy, I’m gonna lose it!,” said the star of What Happens in Vegas.
– A 46-year-old woman in Cambridge, Massachusetts spit on her upstairs neighbor while drunk, after the neighbor’s noise allegedly disturbed the woman’s parents on multiple occasions.
– A Tallahassee, Florida man was charged with assault after aiming a shotgun at two neighbors who had been doing construction work at odd hours. The suspect was specifically upset about their hammering.
– Several Durham, North Carolina residents posted signs on their street stating that speeding vehicles would be hit with paintball guns. As of August, no shots had been fired.