Southampton Town Meeting adopts noise nuisance bylaw, rejects unregistered vehicle rules

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By ALEXA LEWIS

Staff Writer

Published: 05-12-2024 10:45 AM

SOUTHAMPTON — In addition to approving the purchase of 52 acres for a new public safety complex, more than 130 residents at last week’s annual Town Meeting OK’d a $21 million budget for fiscal 2025, adopted a new noise nuisance bylaw and rejected proposed changes to a bylaw on the keeping of unregistered vehicles on private property.

Voters also approved articles such as funding to restore the town’s historic cemetery fence and design a greenway extending from Easthampton to Westfield, a monetary transfer for improved IT infrastructure at Town Hall, and a conservation restriction for the town’s Mountain Waters Landscape Partnership Project.

Next year’s budget, which is slightly less than the current year, includes added hours for the town’s veterans services officer and custodial staff, adjustment of the salary for the Council on Aging moving from state grant funding to the general fund, and a drop in dispatch communications wages to reflect a grant received from Southampton’s partnership with Easthampton’s dispatch center.

The two most contentious votes concerned a new general bylaw entitled “Nuisance/Peace and Quiet,” and an amendment to a general bylaw regarding the keeping of unregistered vehicles. While nearly every article on this year’s Town Meeting warrant passed unanimously, these items required a vote count rather than a voice vote and raised disagreement.

The noise nuisance bylaw called for restricting loud noises to certain hours of the day, with some exceptions. It was a direct result of public comments and meetings regarding concerns about excessive traffic noise from Route 10.

Residents Cindy Palmer and Maureen Groden spoke about the potential pitfalls of the article. Palmer expressed concern about noise from trucks and motorcycles without mufflers during the daytime and afternoon hours not regulated by the bylaw. Groden argued that “there’s a tremendous amount of detail in [the article] around what’s allowed and what’s not allowed,” but because it doesn’t delineate a specific decibel level for violations, she “still think[s] it’s a judgment call.”

The article passed by a simple majority vote of 69 in favor and 39 against.

The other debated bylaw vote concerned an amendment to an existing bylaw concerning the keeping of unregistered vehicles on one’s property. According to Select Board Chair Christine Fowles, the amendment was proposed “to include certain provisions that are more clearly defined.”

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Francine Tishman, chair of the Bylaw Review Advisory Committee, said the aim of the amendment was to better address concerns raised by the community about “unregistered vehicles strewn about people’s properties in their neighborhoods.”

Several residents voiced concern about the amendment’s language, particularly about the need to build garages to store unregistered vehicles and provisions for multiple seasonally registered vehicles. Residents Groden and Christopher Laptew expressed concern about the ability of owners of unregistered vehicles to afford and construct the necessary storage garages.

Another resident, Christopher Grant, questioned the unclear provisions for those who register multiple vehicles seasonally, stating that “one seems like a low limit to me for seasonal [vehicles].”

When the article came to a vote, it failed unanimously, leaving the town with the original bylaw’s more ambiguous language.