Orleans Officials Pledge To Work Toward Revised Noise Bylaw

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Orleans news , Noise

ORLEANS – As the select board continues to look at ways to improve upon its existing noise bylaw, the board opted against removing a clause from the bylaw exempting establishments with liquor licenses.

Town Administrator John Kelly said there has been discussion amongst the board about removing the clause and suggested an article could be drafted seeking to remove it for the special town meeting in October. But board members unanimously agreed July 13 to keep the clause intact and present a new bylaw to voters as a whole when ready.

"Where are most of the noise complaints coming from in the summer?" Select Board member Mark Mathison asked. "They're not coming from the restaurants. They're coming from the parties at the private residences."

But while Orleans has gotten noisier, the question remains as to how to regulate the problem.

"I'm just going to say let's go about this cautiously," Select Board member Kevin Galligan said, "because I think it's a bigger issue than I think even a bylaw can solve."

The goal of a new bylaw would be to determine what a reasonable noise level should be in town without bringing factors such as decibel readings and property lines into consideration, Kelly said. But the issue of noise is proving to be a difficult one to quantify and manage. As an example, Select Board Chair Andrea Reed recalled a recent instance in which a licensed establishment had music playing while private properties and rentals next door were also entertaining guests.

"Put it downtown, put it in East Orleans, I don't care where," she said. "Who controls that air, and who gets to decide how loud each other's speaker systems get to be?"

Select board members discussed how the issue of noise has changed over the years. Mathison said he remembers lying awake at night as a kid in Eastham hearing the whistle buoy in Cape Cod Bay on windy nights. Today, however, the source of noise is harder to identify, with music, traffic, and crowds collectively contributing to the problem.

"You've heard me say it before, but we have such a cumulative impact of noise today that we never had before," Select Board member Kevin Galligan said. "Seven a.m. leaf blowers all the way out to evening parties. It would be one thing if they were one-offs, [but] it's cumulative now. Some days it never seems to stop."

And the issue is bigger than that of music or entertainment, Reed noted. Even when the music stops, there is noise that comes from people talking and making their way to their cars to go home.

"Neighbors are not OK with it, because there is still activity outside," she said. "But it doesn't really come under an entertainment license."

While the bylaw needs to be rethought, Mathison cautioned against overregulating noise so as to avoid alienating people who come to town to visit.

"We want to attract people to the town of Orleans, not just as a vacation summertime playground, but because we have so much to offer with things going on here year-round," he said.

Reed said she hopes the board will have a draft bylaw ready in anticipation of the annual town meeting next spring.

"We don't need to solve it tonight, but we really need to engage in this."

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com