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How loud is too loud? Sandy Springs considers changing noise ordinance

Sandy Springs has a noise ordinance, but currently has no way to decisively measure what is or isn’t too loud.

Because of that, the city is considering changes. In a presentation to the mayor and city council on Tuesday, assistant city manager Jim Tolbert recommended implementing limits on decibels.

This would involve placing decibel readers in the cars of some police officers and city code enforcement staff. Those with readers would have to be trained on how to use the technology and each reader would cost the city “several hundred dollars,” Tolbert said.


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District 5 councilman Tibby DeJulio said the city considered changing this ordinance about 10 years ago to implement decibel readings, but was worried about the cost of readers and training. The estimate Tolbert gave is cheaper than what DeJulio thought. District 1 councilman John Paulson added that most smartphones can download free apps that measure decibels.

City staff proposed a limit of 60 decibels at night and 80 decibels during the day in commercial and mixed use areas, and a limit of 55 decibels in residential areas at night and 65 decibels during the day.

These codes are similar to what the cities of Charlotte, North Carolina and Charlottesville, Virginia allow, according to information presented to the city council.

For comparison, the sound of a vacuum cleaner checks in at 75 decibels, a siren that's 100 feet away is 140 decibels and the sound of leaves rustling can be 30 decibels, according to WebMD.


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Exempt from these codes would be school band or athletic events, lawn care, church bells, religious gatherings and garbage trucks.

But Paulson cautioned that some of the proposed limits are as loud as Ga. 400 typically is, and suggested possibly changing the limits to 10 points above whatever the ambient noise is in a certain area. That is the code that the city of New Orleans, Louisiana follows, according to information presented to the city council.

The council voted to proceed with discussing changes to the ordinance. A vote could come as soon as Feb. 20.


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