By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – Survey data presented to the Southborough Board of Selectmen last week gaged resident opinions for and against a proposed noise bylaw in town.
Discussed as a measure to regulate excessive sound, the bylaw would have to go before Town Meeting and pass in order to take effect.
Southborough has convened a Noise Bylaw Committee to consider all this. That committee, in turn, has held a public forum in addition to conducting this survey.
Residents weigh in on bylaw through survey
A total of 473 respondents took the Noise Bylaw Committee’s survey, rating how much noise from certain activities disturbed or annoyed them.
Half of the respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that a noise bylaw is needed in Southborough.
Thirty-seven percent strongly or somewhat disagreed that it is a necessity. The remaining answers expressed neutral opinions.
Within the survey, thirty-two percent of respondents noted that noise from landscaping activities bothered them either “moderately,” “very much” or “extremely.”
Leaf blowers are a noise problem for 42% of respondents rating within those same three levels of annoyance.
Also cited as troublesome for 32% of respondents are vehicles/motorcycles. Several written comments referred to speeding cars, trucks idling, traffic noises and even the sounds of airplanes and helicopters.
Nearly half of respondents, 48%, said they are awakened prematurely by noise “occasionally” or “often.”
More than half of respondents, 56%, said they are not in favor of setting separate work hours for homeowners and paid contractors as a restriction.
Fifty-nine percent are in favor of having the bylaw restrictions be based on intensity of noise as well as level and volume of noise.
The survey noted that work on I-495 would be exempt from the bylaw as the highway is state-controlled.
However, a few residents suggested the construction of sound barriers and/or intervention by legislators to address the noise.
Selectman notes need to reach ‘the folks in the middle’
In all, the survey summary totaled 54 pages, highlighting responses along with numerous comments.
Selectman Martin Healey said there are similar-sized contingents strongly opposed and strongly in favor of a bylaw.
“You are taking two extreme views into consideration,” he said.
He said it is “the folks in the middle, 10,000 people who will have to live with this thing,” who need to be reached in continuing discussions on this topic.
Committee to continue work ahead of Town Meeting
The Southborough Board of Selectmen agreed at its Jan. 18 meeting to regard this survey as a good substitute for a public forum.
Peter Goodney, representing the Noise Bylaw Committee, noted that his group’s charge called for three public sessions.
One forum was held and attracted 12 residents. Another will take place once a draft proposal is completed, Goodney said.
Next steps include work by the Noise Bylaw Committee to put together that proposal. The committee will also create informational materials in the run up to Town Meeting.
Town Administrator Mark Purple noted the deadline for Town Meeting warrant articles is still set at the end of February and will remain fixed to that date even though the March 26 meeting is expected to be postponed until later in the spring due to concerns about COVID-19.