City Noise Ordinance Q&A

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1. Why did the city decide to pass a noise ordinance now?
Over the last couple of years, the City of Keller has developed an increasingly robust and active entertainment district in the South Main Street corridor of Old Town Keller. This progress coupled with additional economic and residential growth throughout the City of Keller has created heightened call volumes for the Keller Police Department with regard to disturbance calls. These calls range from loud music and the riding of off-road vehicles in residential areas, to loud pets and gatherings late at night. The new noise ordinance was designed, after several focus group meetings with residents and business owners, to address these concerns.

2. To whom does the noise ordinance apply?
The ordinance applies to noises created by both residents and businesses, and essentially works in three layers: a 24/7 standard for “reasonable” noise, enhanced standards at night in and adjacent to residential areas, and a curfew for outdoor music played in commercial zones (regardless of whether complaints have been voiced).

3. What noises does the ordinance cover?
Vehicle horns, signaling devices and similar devices; non-emergency signaling devices; radios, televisions, boom boxes, phonographs, stereos, musical instruments and similar devices; loudspeakers, amplifiers, public address systems, and similar devices; Yelling, shouting, and similar activities; animals and birds; lawn equipment; and motor vehicle idling.

4. How will enforcement of the new ordinance work?
Just as noise issues are handled now, the ordinance is complaint-based, meaning officers will not ask residents or business owners to turn down or eliminate the noise in question unless a complaint has been made to Keller police. Once a concern has been raised, officers will work to resolve the complaint and may present the person responsible for the noise with a warning. If officers are called to the same home or business within a year of a warning being issued for the same complaint, a citation may be issued. Citations will carry a minimum fine of $100, with potential charges reaching as high as state law allows ($2,000), per incident, as determined by the municipal judge. With the exception of vehicles out of compliance with the noise ordinance (such as those without a muffler), everyone will receive a warning before they are issued a citation.

5. Why does Keller’s ordinance use “reasonable noise” language instead of specific sound meter readings?
The use of a reasonable noise standard allows our police officers some latitude in gaining voluntary compliance in a variety of different situations. For example, low bass would not typically register high enough on a sound meter to trigger a citation in cities with meter-based ordinances. Other noises, such as nearby traffic, and environmental factors such as wind can also influence what a sound meter picks up. The City Council expressed a preference for a more flexible ordinance, and that was mirrored in residents’ comments during the focus groups. “Reasonable noise” standards were also preferred by the City Attorney, as meter readings do not hold up in court as well as citizens’ and officers’ descriptions of the noise and its impact on the complainant, when noise complaints escalate to citations.

6. How will police officers decide what is “reasonable noise”?
Keller Police officers will attend a training course on the new noise ordinance. This training will ensure that officers understand the “Spirit of the Law” under which the ordinance was written. The reasonable standard will adjust according to a number of factors, the primary of which will be residential vs. commercial districts, day of week and time of day. Example: Music and shouting from a backyard party a few doors down that is discernible inside of someone’s home on a Saturday afternoon may be reasonable, but the same level of noise/music would likely not be reasonable at 1 a.m. on a Sunday.
As mentioned above, voluntary compliance and warnings will always be used by officers before a citation is issued.

7. Does the ordinance cover the vibrations that sounds create?
Yes. The ordinance does not allow vibrations from noise to extend beyond the source’s property line.

8. Does the curfew for outdoor music at businesses mean they can be as loud as they want until 11 p.m. during the week and 2 a.m. on weekends?
No, businesses will still be held to “reasonable noise” standards 24/7. The curfew is in place so that the music ends on a set schedule regardless of whether complaints have been voiced.

9. I’m a resident — do I have a noise curfew as well?
The residential portion of the ordinance prohibits the use of loudspeakers, amplifiers, public address systems, and similar devices in and adjacent to residential areas between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. on weekends. It also prohibits the use of noise-producing lawn equipment such as lawn mowers between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

10. Does the noise ordinance apply to barking dogs?
Yes, the ordinance applies to any animal, including birds, for which a resident is responsible. Barking dogs are also covered in the nuisance portion of the city’s Animal Control ordinances.

11. Are there any exemptions from the noise ordinance?
The ordinance includes a list of “affirmative defenses.” These are not guaranteed exemptions, per se, in that a citation could still be issued to someone engaging in one of the following activities. But people in the scenarios below are far less likely to receive a citation and will have an “affirmative defense” in the eyes of the court if they do.

  • A siren or other warning device emitting a noise for the purposes of warning the population of dangerous weather or other events (whether the sound is made for purposes of warning or testing).
  • A person operating an emergency vehicle or making to signal for emergency help
  • A person at an authorized event;
  • A public performance, gathering, or parade for which a permit has been obtained from the City of Keller, so long as the event is within the requirements of the permit.
  • Any sanctioned Keller Independent School District or Keller Youth Association sporting event between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight.
  • A person operating a bell for a religious activity;
  • A person operating an audible warning device on a vehicle or train as required by state law;
  • A person operating equipment or making deliveries for site development or site preparation between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, or as such deliveries may be allowed in a Planned Development District or by other Keller ordinance.