Pittsburgh City Council to refine noise control ordinance

By Dale Shoemaker / News Editor

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By changing a few words in local legislation, Pittsburgh City Council hopes to make it easier to keep the peace.

At a City Council Meeting on Tuesday, Bruce Kraus, City Council president and South Oakland representative, introduced a bill that intends to update and rework Pittsburgh’s Noise Control Ordinance, a city-wide rule meant to keep public order. If it passes, the legislation will change the city’s definition of noise — which is currently set at anything above 75 decibels — to a looser one that defines noise as any “sound that annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.” This definition, Kraus said, is used by other cities and municipalities around the country.

 The new definition, however, is meant to simplify the existing ordinance and is not intended to step on residents’ toes, Kraus said.

“[The noise ordinance] has always been about being good neighbors, no one’s going out to cite someone,” Kraus said Tuesday.

According to Kraus, the proposed legislation should pass because it has not yet “met any resistance” from other City Council members.

The principle of the new ordinance is “compliance through education, not punishment.” This means the city will still address noise violations, Kraus said, whether they be for construction or nightlife, but does not expect police to issue more citations. The new ordinance, he said, is only meant to make reporting and acting on noise violations easier.

Under the current ordinance, the city can charge violators $150 for a first offense and up to $300 for a second offense. Currently, Pitt Police do not keep statistics on how many students have been cited for disturbing the peace.

Despite broadening the definition of what constitutes a public disturbance, Kraus does not expect the new ordinance to cost the city any extra money. Both police and city council members already respond to noise complaints, and the new ordinance would only make it easier for City Council to address complaints, not increase their workload.

“This is not intended as any kind of punishment,” Kraus said.

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