Noise complaints prompt Covington officials to re-evaluate what — and when — is too loud

Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton is a reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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After a variety of different noise complaints from residents came to the attention of the City of Covington over the past few months, the city decided to change its official noise ordinance parameters.

One of the most notable public noise disputes was between two Covington businesses that share a building. The owners of both businesses publicly aired their grievances at a March city commission meeting. 

Complaints from the businesses — Bourbon Haus 1841 and Paddy’s on Main — were among several the city received concerning bars and restaurants playing music too loudly and disturbing the surrounding residential neighborhoods. 

Assistant City Solicitor Logan Todd gave a presentation at the Covington city commission meeting two weeks ago regarding the changes.

“This was really an attempt to simply and make this both an easy to enforce ordinance and one that citizens and business owners can easily look at and realize what’s allowed and not allowed,” Todd said.

The changes were implemented to regulate “unreasonable, loud, and harmful” noise within the city.

Covington has noise parameters for both the daytime and nighttime. Any noise that’s plainly audible within 100 feet of the noise source during the daytime would be disallowed under the ordinance.

Also any noise that’s plainly audible within 25 feet of the noise source during nighttime would be disallowed. The parameters apply to both public and private property.

Any type of noise that reaches above the outlined levels will be policed within Covington, regardless of content, Todd said.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the daytime timeframe is from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Sundays through Thursdays, the timeframe is 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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All construction, building, and repair activities, whether commercial or residential, are exempt from the noise ordinance from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We want compliance. We’re not looking to issue citations,” City Manager Ken Smith said. “We just want people to knock it off when it’s causing problems for their neighbors.”

At the request of Commissioner Ron Washington, the city has implemented a decibel reading system that creates a barometer for plainly audible noise.

“If we could make that an ‘or’ instead of an ‘and’, meaning if an enforcement officer hears the music within 100 feet, he could write a citation, or there could be a decibel reading of x amount,” Washington said.

Implementing a decibel reading system, Washington said, would give police and code enforcement officers a fallback when challenged on a noise distance judgement’s subjectiveness.

“We now have a decibel system in place to allow some discretion on using another tool to make sure noise was plainly audible,” Todd said.

City Solicitor David Davidson said the changes help give the police and code enforcement clear guidance on how to enforce the ordinance.

An exemption was included for chimes, church bells and carillons used in conjunction with religious or celebratory events.

“The biggest change is that we’re going from a noise ordinance that gives a lot of discretion,” Todd said. “Basically, whatever noise is considered unreasonable to one that has pretty specific parameters that are easier for police and code enforcement to enforce.”

The noise ordinance change is set to have a first reading at next week’s city commission meeting. A second reading will result in a formal vote by the commission.

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