Attorney Brown Scheduled for Penn State Extension Program on Noise Ordinances

Penn State Extension scheduled Attorney Shannon Brown to speak at a statewide webinar on Pennsylvania noise ordinances on September 19, 2018. Attorney Brown focuses on community development, community engagement, and community place-making law including land use, noise pollution, and noise control.

Neighborhood noise increasingly challenges communities and municipalities. Simple application of neighborliness can resolve many noise disputes.

Yet, increasingly, some community members reject neighborliness and [wrongly] insist on some “right” to make noise to justify their disruptive activities, noise, and anti-community behavior. These problem-makers can quickly undermine otherwise good neighborhoods, escalate conflict, and negatively affect health of neighbors.

Municipalities have an active obligation to hold problem-noisemakers accountable. As Pittsburgh Council President insightfully summarized, “If you’re not being a good neighbor, there are steps we can take to ensure the peace.” With increased populations, mixed-use planning, and higher housing densities, municipalities must protect the private-property right of quiet enjoyment; protect health and welfare; keep-the-peace; and perhaps avoid liability for the municipality itself for failing to take action.


Penn State Press Release: Webinar to focus on addressing noise in Pennsylvania’s communities

Noise and its impacts on communities will be the topic of a web-based land-use seminar presented Sept. 19 by Penn State Extension.

Presenting the 75-minute webinar starting at noon will be attorney Shannon Brown.

Noise can cause serious health issues and can undermine the quality of life in Pennsylvania communities, she pointed out.

“Current scientific research shows that noise can cause significant, adverse health effects such as heart disease, diabetes, learning impairment in children, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, hearing loss, psychological disturbances and stress,” Brown said.

However, communities possess health, safety and welfare powers to effectively address noise issues and protect their residents.

“Municipalities clearly have authority to control noise pollution, and enforcement may be simpler than is sometimes assumed when the right tools are applied,” Brown said. “Furthermore, municipalities might risk liability themselves for not effectively controlling noise and protecting fundamental, private property rights such as quiet enjoyment.”

Brown will discuss three examples of noise ordinances during the webinar, along with the formidable problems of trying to address noise through typically outdated, general, nuisance ordinances.

The presentation will cover medical effects of noise; working definitions of noise; constitutional issues arising from noise; statutory authority for controlling noise pollution; and the basics of sound and decibel measurements (which might not be needed). In addition, Brown will cover how to distinguish between noise ordinances, nuisance ordinances and zoning; and three available regulatory standards for addressing noise in a noise ordinance — plainly audible, decibel/sound-level, or a hybrid of plainly audible and sound level.