The big picture
The new ordinance is intended to establish a more defined and efficient enforcement process. During quiet hours, the maximum noise decibel level is 60 decibels in residential zones and 67 decibels in nonresidential zones. Under the adopted ordinance, quiet hours are defined as:
- Sun.-Thu., except the day before city holidays, before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Fri., Sat. and the day before city holidays, before 7 a.m. or after 11 p.m.
- Sun.-Thu., except the day before city holidays from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
- Fri., Sat. and the day before city holidays from 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
During the Sept. 11 meeting, Bellaire City Manager Sharon Citino emphasized the purpose of the ordinance is to have a structure in place to go after "consistent, obnoxious" violations. Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg also said he hoped residents would talk to each other first instead of reporting neighbors for violations as a first resort.
Discussions on the city's noise ordinance began in earnest in 2022 after the Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission found the city’s current compliance standards and penalties for violations regarding noise regulations were inconsistent. Since then, city officials have hosted a town hall to gather resident feedback and continued to workshop proposed changes leading up to the Sept. 11 meeting.
Travis Tanner, the city's director of development services, told Council members about several changes that had been made to the original draft ordinance following the June 6 town hall:
- Nonquiet hours were compressed on weekdays and expanded on weekends and holidays.
- During quiet hours, noises above the maximum decibel level are prohibited, and dumpster service, construction activities and lawn care and prohibited regardless of noise levels.
- During nonquiet hours, noises above the maximum levels are prohibited, but dumpster service, construction activities and lawn care are allowed regardless of noise level.
During the meeting, council members proposed several amendments to the ordinance, including raising maximum decibel levels during nonquiet hours from 65 to 75 in residential zones and from 72 to 80 in nonresidential zones. The amendments, which came from Council Members Nathan Wesley and Brian Witt, were put forth due to concerns expressed by Wesley that the initially proposed maximums were too low and would be difficult to follow.
Quote of note
“I think all of these specific numbers are going to be highly dependent on what actually happens when you get out there and see how it goes," Council Member Ross Gordon said during debates on decibel levels. "I think the structure is going to be more important than the actual number. We can revisit that based on the findings we get when complaints come in, when measurements are made, and we can determine if that’s appropriate plus or minus a few decibels.”
Fines will be no less than $150 for the first offense of a violation and no less than $500 for any subsequent violation. The ordinance also listed a number of exceptions, including noise emanating from properly permitted construction, noise produced by city-approved functions, noise produced by typical activities at public and private schools, and noise produced by typical activities at restaurants and private parks.
City staff will monitor the impact of the new ordinance for the next 6-12 months and will report back to council on any issues or recommendations for tweaks to the ordinance.