Longmont officials look to curb unreasonably loud vehicle engines, exhaust systems

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Excessively loud automobiles driving in Longmont continue to be an issue for several residents and business owners.

So much so, that public safety officials have proposed prohibiting a motor vehicle’s engine or exhaust system from being audible 300 feet away.

Public safety officials landed on the 300-foot threshold after noise from traffic hardly registered above normal, ambient sounds when measured from that distance.

“It’s a distance that … most people can visualize,” Longmont Master Police Officer David Kennedy said, pointing out how the 300-foot length was similar to that of a football field’s distance.

Traffic flows along Main Street in Longmont on Monday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Traffic flows along Main Street in Longmont on Monday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

The city already prohibits unreasonable noises that can be heard 25 feet away at a certain decibel level. The decibel threshold depends on the time of day and the area’s zoning, whether it be residential, commercial or industrial.

However, enforcing the noise regulations, especially as they relate to motor vehicles, has been nearly impossible for police officers because of the department not possessing the necessary equipment to record decibel levels.

“Even if we did possess noise meters, we still think there’s a better way,” Kennedy said about noise enforcement tactics.

The new rule would allow officers the ability to issue noise citations after hearing a motor vehicle’s engine or exhaust system from 300 feet away as opposed to having to measure its decibel levels.

Kennedy stressed how the intent of the new rule was to go after egregious violations.

The 300-foot rule would not apply to commercial motor vehicles because they already have to adhere to various other government noise regulations, Kennedy said.

“It’s just about the quiet enjoyment of … spaces no matter if you’re downtown or in your home,” Kennedy said.

Earlier this year Longmont resident Brian Johnston, who lives a block off the city’s main thoroughfare, collected 25 signatures from business owners and managers who wanted something to be done about pulsating car stereos. Johnston was not available to speak by phone Monday but said in a Facebook message that he was confused by the proposed new language and questioned why it did not include anything about stereos specifically.

Councilman Tim Waters said the proposed addition to the city’s noise ordinance was not in response to a single incident or petition but instead addresses ongoing concerns raised by residents about unreasonably loud vehicles and businesses.

“We’re not going to police our way out of our fireworks issues, our speeding issues, our street-racing issues, our … noise issues,” Waters said. “We just don’t have enough police officers. We’re going to have to use other technologies if we’re going to address these issues.”

With police officers already struggling to enforce the city’s existing noise ordinance, Waters questioned how adding to the rules would help if issues surrounding enforcement and prosecution were not also addressed.

“As we add to ordinances, we’re not adding prosecutors or judges,” Waters said. “So, if we’re going to prosecute these things, what are we not going to prosecute? And, we ought to be clear on both.”

Tuesday’s City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. inside of the council chambers at 350 Kimbark St.

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