OAKLAND — Town residents may soon be enjoying the sweet sound of silence — or facing stiff penalties if they choose to engage in what the town council is defining as unnecessary noise.

The council Wednesday night gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that forbids any person from intentionally or recklessly causing annoyance to others by making “loud and unreasonable noises” after having been ordered by law enforcement to stop.

The ordinance now moves to the council’s Tuesday, Dec. 23, meeting for final approval. If accepted, it will take effect immediately.

Consideration of the ordinance comes after residents complained to the town that a logging operation on McGrath Pond Road was waking them as early as 3 a.m., according to Town Manager Gary Bowman.

Bowman said Wednesday he has received no comments from the public since the proposed ordinance was posted last month.

The ordinance gives Oakland police discretion to decide what constitutes a violation, setting fines of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, $500 for a third offense and $1,000 for a forth and all subsequent offenses.

If violators refuse to comply, police can issue one citation for every hour the noise continues until the noise stops.

Bowman said the ordinance will give the town another tool to help keep Oakland quiet, but he admits it may be difficult to prosecute if residents refuse to comply.

“It’s going to be difficult to enforce in court, if it goes to court,” he told the council Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter how it’s worded. It’s going to be a tough sell.”

That statement comes after Police Chief Mike Tracy told the council in October that the ordinance would require officers to go through special training to prosecute the municipal ordinance, because the district attorney’s office does not prosecute violations of town or city codes.

At the time, Tracy told the council, he was the only Oakland police officer to have completed the municipal ordinance prosecution class, and that training, which he completed in 1998, was out of date.

The ordinance includes, but is not limited to noise created by radios or other electronic equipment, the loading and unloading of commercial vehicles between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., timber harvesting between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and automobile noise at any time caused by spinning tires on dry pavement and modified exhaust systems.

It further bans unnecessary noise caused by fireworks between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The ordinance carves out several exemptions though, allowing noise from certain activities to continue unabated.

Those include noise created by governmental activities, utility agencies, domestic power equipment such as chainsaws when operated during daylight hours, firearms if used lawfully during daylight hours, trains if operating in accordance with the law, plow trucks and other snow removal devices, farming activities, solid waste collection and generators during power outages or weekly exercise periods not to exceed 30 minutes.

It also exempts noise created by truck engine brakes when used to slow down on sloped roadways, and it includes a special exemption for machinery being operated outside the normal permissible hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. during “mud season” in the spring when ground conditions may not allow heavy equipment to operate during warmer daytime hours.

Those exemptions have at least one council member concerned about the ordinance.

Councilman Mark Fisher said he believes the issue of noise in Oakland needs to be addressed, but it should only be dealt with at the state Legislature.

“I don’t think I have the authority — the constitutional authority anyway — to vote and pick and choose who gets exempted and who doesn’t get exempted. That’s just my personal belief,” he said, adding that he does not support the ordinance.

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @evanbelanger


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