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Stonington officials look for ways to lower the decibel level

STONINGTON — The town attorney, police chief, and zoning enforcement officer will be invited to the March 12 Board of Selectmen meeting to discuss possible ways of regulating noise in town.

The board has been grappling with this issue for nearly a year, after residents of the Richmond Lane area in Mystic complained about the noise from a teenager who rides a dirt bike on his family’s property. A recent attempt to write a noise ordinance was rejected by the Board of Police Commissioners in September as being too difficult to enforce.

At a Board of Selectmen meeting last month, the selectmen discussed possibilities for noise regulation offered by Town Attorney Thomas J. Londregan. In a Feb. 7 letter to the board, Londregan offered three possibilities: a noise ordinance, regulation through zoning, and a revision to the town’s existing noise ordinance.

A noise ordinance, which Londregan said must be approved by the state, would require funding to buy and maintain the equipment to measure noise, and additional funding to train police officers to use the equipment.

“This entails the cost and expense of acquiring necessary equipment, having it calibrated on a regular basis and training personnel to use the equipment,” Londregan wrote.

Officers would also be required to account for the ambient noise level, and eliminate any noise spikes, or outliers, from the calculations. It isn’t a simple measurement, Londregan cautioned.

Zoning regulations could prohibit dirt bikes in some residential zones because of the noise they cause, Londregan wrote, but that would also require measuring the noise.

The third option, using the nuisance ordinance, would forbid dirt bike riding within 300 feet of a property line without the written permission of abutting neighbors.

Selectmen noted that this third option sounded like the simplest one to manage.

“The easiest one was the measurement one,” said Selectman George Crouse, adding, however, that “I thought 300 feet was kind of excessive.”

Londregan also noted that this solution “poses both legal and practical problems.”

“Would this regulation somehow be deemed to be affecting one’s property right to use their property by riding vehicles which are otherwise legal?” he wrote.

A neighbor at the meeting confirmed that the teen is still riding his dirt bike on the property when the weather permits.

To discuss the matter further, the selectmen decided to invite Londregan, Police Chief J. Darren Stewart, and zoning compliance officer Candace Palmer to the March 12 meeting. “If they have enough property, they should be able to ride,” Crouse said, “but they should ride without making life miserable for everybody around them.”

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