Making noise in Morristown is about to get expensive.
The town council on Thursday took first steps toward adoption of state regulations carrying maximum fines of $2,000 for loud leaf blowers, un-muffled motorcycles, barking dogs, blasting stereos, and bar bands that echo across streets.
“This ordinance gives us a vehicle for enforcing sound violations,” said Councilman Robert Iannaccone, who has fielded noise complaints from residents working at home during the pandemic.
Surplus funds covered COVID revenue losses and kept tax increases modest. Administrator Jillian Barrick predicted an economic rebound and stable taxes going forward, as major developments come onto the tax rolls. Re-openings of the Mayo Performing Arts Center and Hyatt Regency Morristown later this year will help spur the recovery, she said.
The cannabis prohibition is intended as a placeholder, until state rules for marijuana sales are fleshed out this summer. Morristown’s new cannabis advisory committee has met twice in the last month, and it may have suggestions in July for local regulations, Council President Stefan Armington said.
Additionally, the council introduced a $1.2 million budget for the Morristown Partnership, which operates the Morristown Farmers Market and the Christmas Festival at the Morristown Green, among other functions.
The governing body also heard from the Morristown Rotary, which is donating a gazebo for Lidgerwood Park. And the council introduced two salary measures.
One maintains no-increase stipends for the mayor ($26,962) and council ($10,017, plus $1,000 for the president).
The other sets ranges for management and non-union employees. (Pages 16-19.) Barrick’s position tops the list at $186,000.
These salaries generally include the same 1.75 percent cost-of-living increases anticipated for other town employees, Barrick said. Sometimes, to remain competitive for talent, other adjustments are made, she said.
MAKING NOISE ABOUT NOISE
Concerns about noise factored heavily in the council’s April decision to nix rooftop dining proposed by the Iron Bar.
But those hearings underscored the subjective nature of the town’s noise law. Now, the council is poised to adopt a model ordinance from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). It sets decibel- and frequency thresholds for different times of day and provides an enforcement framework.
Morristown will buy a pair of sound meters, and send several police officers to Rutgers for training and certification in their use, Barrick said.
The ordinance (pages 22-38) specifies what sorts of violations merit a warning, and which ones deserve hefty fines.
Residents may be cited for allowing pets to create sound “which unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace, comfort, and repose of any resident.”
That includes howling, yelping, barking, or squawking “for five minutes without interruption, defined as an average of four or more vocalizations per minute in that period,” or vocalizing intermittently for 20 minutes, “defined as an average of two vocalizations or more per minute in that period.”
Portable music devices operated in public should not be “plainly audible” beyond 50 feet during daytime hours, or beyond 25 feet overnight. Motorcycles and motorized snow removal equipment require mufflers.
The model ordinance also designates prohibited hours for power tools and yard maintenance equipment. Because the town’s noise policy actually has more restrictive hours for such gear, the council voted Thursday to amend the state ordinance.
If the DEP swiftly approves the amendment, a public hearing on the ordinance will occur at the virtual council meeting on July 13, 2021.
IN OTHER BUSINESS…
The Easter Bunny should have nice digs for next April’s egg hunt.
The Morristown Rotary is donating a $90,000 metal gazebo at Lidgerwood Park, to commemorate the chapter’s 100th anniversary next spring.
Rotarian Harvey Gilbert said he hopes the gazebo can host the Easter egg hunt, and an anniversary celebration next May.
The gazebo will replace a pump house. Each side of the hexagonal structure will represent a Rotary charitable theme: Youth, health, veterans, culture, education and hunger.
“We would appreciate if people reflect on that from time to time… it’s nourishing and beneficial” to serve others, said Gilbert.
The Rotary aims to recoup project costs by selling commemorative bricks for placement around the gazebo.
“It will be a wonderful addition to the park,” said Councilman Michael Elms, thanking the Rotarians.
Make sure to pay your internet bill.
Virtual council meetings will continue — even though the state has lifted indoor capacity restrictions, and Morristown may eliminate town hall mask requirements within days.
The council opted to Zoom until September, so more residents can get vaccinated.
Iannaccone and Councilman David Silva advocated for livestreaming of in-person meetings. But hybrid meetings have posed glitches for some towns, according to Barrick. Morristown council meetings were streamed live until a few years ago. Then they switched to recorded replays.
Over the pandemic, meetings of most town boards have been viewable in real time via Zoom. But only the council’s Zoom sessions have been re-posted to the town website for viewing afterward.