By Aaron Keebaugh
The new multi-part noise ordinance reflects similar regulations in neighboring cities. Noise levels are now restricted to 60 decibels from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 50 decibels after 6 p.m. and during the night.
It is of little surprise that the noise ordinance passed. Since the public hearing last month, councillors have routinely voiced their support for it. Monday night they all lined up to support Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky’s amendment to the ordinance, which calls for police cruisers to be equipped with hand-held decibel meters to enforce the new regulations.
But there was some disagreement about another issue. At a meeting of the legislative affairs subcommittee two weeks ago, Councillor-at-Large and Committee Chairman Brian Arrigo inserted an amendment to bring helicopter and heliport use in the city in line with the ordinance.
Though designed to crack down on helicopter noise in general, the amendment targets Now City Tours, a young company based on North Shore Road that, through a special permit granted from the city council this past spring, provides sightseeing helicopter tours of Boston, Revere Beach, and North Shore areas.
Arrigo’s amendment, Section 9.08.100K, reads: “Operating or permitting the operation of a helicopter between the hours of nine p.m. and eight a.m. so as to be plainly audible from the lot line of the lot on which such activity is located, is a violation of this chapter.”
In response, Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto said he cannot support the amendment though he was in favor of the full noise ordinance.
He called the amendment redundant, since the special permit granted to Now City Tours already restricts helicopter activity, albeit from the more generalized time frame of sunrise to sunset. “It’s a waste of verbiage,” Zambuto said of the amendment Monday night.
Ward 5 Councillor John Powers, who has voiced opposition on the helicopter business in the past, said “I will support the amendment. If you live in that area it is important. You can’t believe the [helicopter] noise you hear in the Oak Island area.”
He added that he supports restrictions on businesses if they place a negative effect on the residents’ quality of life.
Arrigo said that the amendment is designed to “protect neighbors in the area.”
But Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Reardon recommended a substitute amendment to Arrigo’s proposal, one that would reflect the language and restrictions of the special permit granted to Now City Tours. “We don’t know what a helicopter produces decibel-wise,” Reardon said.
But Reardon’s substitute amendment was soundly defeated in a 2–9 vote. Only Councillor Correggio joined Reardon in the affirmative vote.
Arrigo’s amendment went on to pass, 9–2, with Zambuto and Council President Richard Penta voting against it.
In a phone call to The Revere Advocate Tuesday night, Arrigo explained that his amendment is consistent with the regulations established in the ordinance, reiterating that the measure is set in place to protect the residents, especially those in Oak Island. In his reasoning, he said that he has heard most of the complaints from residents about helicopter noise during the morning hours. “Noise before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. is the most problematic,” he opined. He also noted that the restrictions on the special permit are too vague: “Sunrise could be as early as 6 a.m. and sunset as late as 8 p.m.”
In a phone call Wednesday, Councillor Zambuto offered additional opinions, elaborating on comments he made during the meeting: “When you issue a business a special permit it means something.”
Following the council meeting Zambuto sought a legal opinion on the matter from the city solicitor. The reply, which Zambuto said he will make public at the next council meeting, claims that the city council cannot change a previously-issued permit with another law, the councilor said. “That amendment isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” he quipped.
He added, rhetorically: “What kind of city would we have if we make rules and then come back and change them?”
Not swayed by the opinion that the amendment protects the neighbors from helicopter noise, Zambuto retorted, “Are you going to protect [the neighbors] against ambient traffic… I’m not a lawyer, “but I sought legal opinion… Shame on some of my colleagues for voting for that amendment.”
When informed of the issue Wednesday morning, Steve Williams, partner with Now City Tours, said that the change “really doesn’t affect [the business] too much,” noting that the specific time restrictions in the ordinance do not differ greatly from those outlined on the permit.
He did say that “this seems like it was done to affect us as there are no other heliports in the city.”
For now, Williams said that he will see how things work out; he plans to review the council’s findings and to make sure that he’s in compliance with the permit. “The council knows I’m a pretty accessible guy… I’m not looking to argue with the city.”
Council unanimously approves rodent control ordinance
Amendments did not get in the council’s way of unanimously approving the rodent ordinance Monday night.
The new ordinance aims to eliminate rodents by clamping down on their easiest food source, trash and food waste in the city’s dumpsters, supporters of the regulation have stated. Businesses and people who own and operate dumpsters will now have to obtain permits (at an annual fee of $50 for each), clean the dumpsters three times per year, and maintain records for each receptacle for inspection.
Further, any person or agency seeking a permit to open the street will now be required to bait the proposed construction area for rats. An amendment to the ordinance grants enforcement powers to the department of public works (DPW).
The ordinance also requires the DPW to bait sewer lines. Due to an amendment proposed by Councillor Patch, the DPW superintendent and city solicitor will amend the sewer-work contracts to reflect the change.