HALLOWELL — City residents will have the chance to sound off about draft changes to the noise ordinance that propose a louder downtown district.

The Noise Ordinance Committee is hosting a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Hallowell City Hall.

The draft ordinance keeps limits the same as usual in all districts except the downtown district, where a general increase in the noise level would be permitted. From Monday to Thursday, the permitted limit from 1 to 7 a.m. would be 55 decibels. The rest of the day — from 7:01 a.m. to 12:59 a.m. — the permitted limit would be 70 decibels.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration likens 50 decibels to the average noise heard outside an “urban residence,” 60 decibels to a “conversation three feet away,” 70 decibels to “classroom chatter” and 80 decibels to a “freight train 100 feet away.”

On Friday and Saturday, limits would be set at 55 decibels from 1 to 7 a.m., 80 decibels from 5 to 9 p.m., and 70 decibels from 7:01 a.m. to 4:59 a.m. and 9:01 p.m. to 12:59 a.m. On Sunday, the limits would be 55 decibels from 1 to 7 a.m., 80 decibels from 1 to 5 p.m., and 70 decibels from 7:01 a.m. to 12:59 p.m. and 5:01 p.m. to 12:59 a.m.

Eric Zwirling, director of the Rutgers University Noise Technical Assistance Center, said a 10-decibel increase usually represents a “perceived doubling in loudness.” However, on low frequencies such as bass, a 6-decibel increase could be a perceived doubling.

On the changes to the ordinance, Councilor Kate Dufour, a member of the Noise Ordinance Committee, said the committee unanimously decided on a raise in sound level to help encourage live music in Hallowell. She said that is a “significant attractor” to the city, but she recognized the effect music could have on downtown residents.

“We settled in acknowledgment that the city does indeed thrive on live music,” she said. “In the summer months, people like to be outdoors, and music is part of our history.”

In July, the proposed ordinance passed through a first reading of three that are required before it becomes part of the city charter. The ordinance would need to be reviewed through two more City Council readings before it is written into the city’s charter.

After any amendments are made by the Noise Ordinance Committee, the ordinance is expected to be discussed at the Nov. 13 City Council meeting.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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