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Noise ordinance proposal raises loud objections in Pendleton

PENDLETON – An overflow crowd of more than 150 at Town Hall on Monday decried a proposed noise ordinance that opponents said would ruin Pendleton’s way of life.

The board didn’t vote on the measure, and it’s unclear when – or if – it will, Supervisor Joel M. Maerten said. “It could be completely discarded. It could be revised,” he said. But substantial revisions would force the board to hold another public hearing.

The noise ordinance seeks to crack down on all “unreasonable noise” in the town, which is defined as sound that would “disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.”

Several speakers said they have no idea what that means, and the law doesn’t tell them.

Many in the crowd said they received an anonymous letter that told them the law would abolish lawn mowing, snowblowing, and use of off-road vehicles.

“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said John Paschen of Beach Ridge Road. “You come and tell me I’m running my lawn mower too loud and see what happens.”

Kevin Schuler of Ridgeview Drive South said he supports a noise ordinance, but called the letter “a fraud on the public.”

The discussion showed that there is a split between the old-timers who grew up in a sparsely populated rural town, and those who have come to town in recent years as sprawling subdivisions have made southern Pendleton a bedroom community for Amherst and Clarence.

“A lot of the town is still rural. We’re not all subdivisions,” said Randy Jasulevich of Bear Ridge Road. “You can’t even use your chain saw (under the law). ... Hunting is still a big deal in Pendleton. Are we going to put hunting out of business?”

The law was drawn up before the election and, according to the town website, was last revised in October. Maerten said it wasn’t written with any incident or property owner in mind, although there have been issues such as a 2014 dispute between subdivision dwellers and neighbors over dirt bikes on Tonawanda Creek Road, which ended up in a lawsuit between neighbors.

But some speakers claimed the law was aimed at throwing an obstacle into the path of National Fuel’s natural gas compressor project, which is strongly unpopular in the town.

“There are some issues. It’s a start,” said James Sacco, former chairman of the Planning Board. He and others said a table in the proposed law, listing allowable noise levels, is unrealistically low. The law says maximum sound levels in residential zones should be 63 decibels during the day and 53 at night.

The draft ordinance would make illegal any noise from a “sound reproduction device” that can be heard 100 feet away, unless it’s in a vehicle, when it’s limited to 50 feet. Snow removal equipment would be banned between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. if it would “disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.”

“Pendleton is a growing town and we need ordinances that are contemporary,” said Maerten, who was presiding over his first meeting as supervisor. “We’re in no hurry to move ahead with it. It shouldn’t be something that will affect the way of life in Pendleton.”