Trouble in Paradise -- New Town Residents Split Over What Constitutes Loud

Sep 9, 2009 at 11:05 am
click to enlarge A rather serene image of New Town - Photo: Jennifer Silverberg
Photo: Jennifer Silverberg
A rather serene image of New Town
The Post-Dispatch has a curious story today about a rift between members of the St. Charles neighborhood of New Town.

For the few of you not in the know, New Town is a planned community modeled after the "new urbanism" theory of architecture designed to mimic neighborhoods built prior to the advent of the automobile. These new urbanist communities feature pedestrian friendly walkways, community centers and lots of rules aimed at fostering a genteel and civil society.

As I discovered back in 2006, some of those rules include no molded plastic furniture on front porches, no outdoor clotheslines, no aluminum or vinyl fences, no colored window shades, no storm doors, no real estate brokerage sign, etc.

The list also includes rules regarding sound. Gas lawnmowers, for example, are prohbited in part because of their noise.

But how loud is loud?

Today's story in the Post-Dispatch reports how some New Town residents now want to lift the noise restrictions for entertainment purposes such as wedding receptions, restaurant music and sand volleyball. The article, however, gives no context as to what constitutes loud.

Curious, I called up New Town today to find out.

The current sound restrictions in New Town call for no noise above 65 decibels between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight, and no noise above 55 decibels between midnight and 6 a.m.

A new proposal -- now in effect for a one-year trial period -- will allow New Town residents bring 'da noise to 75 decibels from 6 a.m. to midnight and 65 decibels at all other hours.

Question: How loud is that?

Answer: Not very.

Decibel levels between 70 and 80 could be compared to an "electric shaver," an "average radio" or "normal street noise." Whereas, decibels between 60 and 70 are the equivalent of "conversational speech."

Oh, and gas-powered lawnmowers? They still won't pass muster even in a louder New Town. The decibel range for them averages around 100 decibels.