A public hearing on a proposed bylaw to limit construction noise elicited strong opinions on both sides of the issue at the Edgartown selectmen’s meeting Monday.
Selectmen unanimously agreed to appoint a committee to study the issue, and recommend possible changes for consideration at the April annual town meeting.
A draft of the bylaw regulating construction and maintenance hours would reduce the hours in which construction could take place by one hour on weekdays, and 1.5 hours on Saturdays.
The draft bylaw limits construction or maintenance, including excavation, demolition, alteration, repairs, and landscaping, to the hours between 7:30 am and 6:30 pm on weekdays. The current bylaw allows work from 7 am to 7 pm.
On Saturdays, work would be limited to the hours between 8:30 am and 5 pm. Currently, work is allowed from 8 am to 6 pm on Saturdays. No work would be permitted on Sundays or holidays, except in the case of urgent necessity in the interest of public health and safety. Violators could be subject to a fine of not more than $50.
Sylvia Thomas of Curtis Lane objected to the hours outlined in the draft bylaw.
“I was a little disappointed, having been subjected to putting up buildings,” Ms. Thomas said. “I think that’s too long into the day. It’s 11 hours, it’s too much to expect. I think it should be no more than 5 pm. You’re getting into the supper hour for most people.”
Joe Smith of Fuller Street welcomed the reduced construction hours, but questioned the amount of the fine.
“This is a great step forward,” Mr. Smith said. “The only comment I have is, a fine of not more than 50 dollars is probably not much of a deterrent.”
Ms. Thomas also criticized the fine structure. “A $50 fine is ludicrous,” she said. “Fifty dollars is a drop in the bucket to people who are in construction. They will abuse it if they can.”
Selectman Art Smadbeck said state authorities set limits on the amount of fines a town can impose.
Two local businessmen spoke in opposition to the draft bylaw. “You can’t legislate good morals,” Ben Hall, Jr. said. Mr. Hall manages commercial property in Edgartown. “I think this is way too heavy-handed. There are reasonable situations, in areas where there are no residential neighbors. The way this is drafted you can’t issue a permit for a situation where there really is no impact on people.”
Also speaking in opposition was Norman Rankow, a general contractor who is president of Colonial Reproductions.
“You’re singling out a particular business and saying these are the only times you can work,” Mr. Rankow said. “It’s about reasonableness. If nobody hears the noise, is it an offense? We’re always trying to work with the neighbors, I can’t think of a situation where we wouldn’t. There are times in a project when we can be working inside. A paintbrush doesn’t make a lot of noise.”
Selectman Michael Donaroma, who operates a landscaping business that could be affected by the bylaw changes, also weighed in on the draft bylaw, including the proposed fines.
“You can get unreasonable neighbors,” Mr. Donaroma said. “It happens. The enforcement is either the building inspector or the police. If somebody shows up with a badge and a gun, the $50 doesn’t make much difference, you’re going to shut it down.”
Mr. Donaroma suggested forming a committee for more study. Selectmen voted in favor of his motion to appoint a committee of construction interests, residents, and town officials. The committee will make recommendations for town meeting voters to consider.