Ottawa City Council presents draft of new noise ordinance

Proposal caps noise at various decibels, depending on the property type

Music from AC/DC and Journey made a guest appearance during the city of Ottawa’s workshop on its new noise ordinance Thursday night as Police Chief Brent Roalson demonstrated how the city’s new decibel readers work.

A draft of the new ordinance was available at the meeting and if it were to pass as it stands, it would restrict noise levels based on the time of day and the zoning of the property where the noise is coming from.

For residential properties, noise should not exceed 65 decibels between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and it should not exceed 50 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Commercial properties are capped at 75 decibels from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. and 50 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and industrial properties are capped at 80 decibels.

Commercial properties would have until 11:59 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Memorial Day eve, July 3, Labor Day eve and Thanksgiving eve to play music as loud as 75 decibels.

The language for the draft of the noise ordinance is largely based on the same ordinance used in the city of Geneva, but the noise standards and times are the same as the ordinance used by the city of Oglesby.

Mayor Dan Aussem said he would like to get feedback from businesses that typically play music to decide the number that works the best.

Roalson said the noise level is measured from where the person called the noise complaint instead of at the location of the music, itself.

The punishment for a noise violation is a $75 fine up to a maximum of $750.

“One of the problems I think we have is similar to what we’ve had with some of the businesses that operated during COVID-19 where they break the ordinance and just pay the $75 while still refusing to comply,” Aussem said. “Their thought is that it’s just going to be $75.”

Aussem said his hope is having the ordinance written this way will make it a deterrent.

Roalson said a bar owner in town helped him with figuring out what the different decibel levels sound like.

“They turned the jukebox up all the way and it was so absurdly loud that it was uncomfortable,” Roalson said. “It read at 85 at that point, and right behind the bar it registered 92 decibels. This is indoors with the speakers directly pointed at it but at the end of the day, we were three people standing less than a foot apart and we couldn’t even communicate.”

Roalson said with the door closed, the sound dropped down to between 75 and 80 decibels and the bar owner said he’s never once had music that loud in his bar.

The ordinance as described is still being workshopped by the city and will be placed on file during its 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall, although it will have to again be voted on at a later date to go into effect.