Simplifying and clarifying
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously adopted a modernized and simplified set of noise guidelines for residents living in the unincorporated communities of King County. The revised regulations cover a wide number of issues, ranging from options in addition to decibel levels to who will be the contact people for faster response.
“There were 1603 noise complaints in 2013. I hope the clarity of the new law and enforcement as well as the mediation process will help to make the noise concerns greatly reduced.” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, the sponsor of the legislation.
Lambert further remarked, “In crafting this legislation, we were very cognizant of the fact that noise is a deeply personal issue to people, and that we needed to balance noise protection with the need for legitimate noise from business and industry.”
King County has a policy of minimizing exposure of residents “to the physiological and psychological dangers of excessive noise and to protect, promote and preserve the public health, safety and welfare.” For many years, the county has found the current noise code difficult to enforce due to resource constraints and unclear code provisions from 1977.
The legislation adopted today is an effort to expand, simplify and clarify these codes to make them more effective and enforceable. The legislation is a collaborative product that has been over a year in the making, with key input from agencies directly affected such as the Sheriff and Public Health who currently share responsibility for enforcing the noise ordinance, the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review which handles construction permits, the County Prosecutor’s Office and the Dispute Resolution Center as well as input from individual residents, many business groups such as the construction industry, and many community groups.
The legislation shifts the enforcement focus for neighborhood noise from only technical decibel measurements to revised public disturbance provisions which are clarified and defined to include “any sound that unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace, comfort or repose of a person or persons.” Examples in existing code are retained that illustrate types of noise that constitute public disturbances. This is an approach that has been successfully used by other law enforcement jurisdictions, including some that are served by the King County Sheriff’s Office. Construction noise enforcement is also greatly simplified, relying on strict hour limits.
Under the new noise code, it is clarified and coordinated so if you are experiencing loud and raucous neighborhood noise, you would call the Sheriff. The Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) will be primarily responsible for enforcing construction noise limits. The county hopes that the first step people will take is to talk to each other; the new legislation encourages mediation.
This ordinance has already gone through SEPA review. With the Council’s adoption of the ordinance, the next step will be be to obtain required approval from the state Department of Ecology before the provisions would go into effect. Standards are also deemed approved if the Department of Ecology fails to act within 90 days. If all of the processes receive the necessary approvals, the new regulations would likely go into effect this summer.