New noise regulations will go into effect in Brenham following action by the city council today (Thursday) to amend the city’s code of ordinances.

Legal and Legislative Services Manager Karen Stack
details Brenham's new noise standards in a
presentation to the city council on Thursday.

The new rules transition from measuring noise based on a “plainly audible” standard into a decibel-based system, with the allowed maximum decibels depending on the time of day and whether the property is zoned for residential, industrial or commercial-mixed use.  Legal and Legislative Services Manager Karen Stack said the goal was to move to a “more objective standard” for determining acceptable noise levels.

A work session presentation provided an overview of important aspects of the noise ordinance, like what sounds are prohibited at all times.  They comprise of using sound amplifying devices on public property where the noise can be heard over 50 feet away; using loudspeakers or amplifiers on non-vending vehicles where the music or bass reverberation is audible over 50 feet away; prolonged loud noise from an animal or bird; yelling or singing outdoors at night; and unreasonable noise from a vehicle due to being out of repair or overloaded.

Exceptions to any noise offenses established in the ordinance include emergency sirens or alarms, daytime construction or lawn maintenance, garbage collection, city-sponsored events, city-authorized activities at the Hohlt Park Amphitheater, fire marshal-authorized fireworks, aircraft at the airport, railroad equipment, road construction, properly maintained AC or refrigeration systems, and events at the Washington County Expo.  Also allowed is noise from schools or school-sponsored athletic events, which Stack said served as the source for the city’s highest noise level during its testing.

The maximum allowable exterior sound level in residentially-zoned areas is 55 decibels in the daytime – or 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. – and 50 at nighttime – or 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.  Properties in commercial mixed-use zones have a limit of 62 decibels at all hours, while the limit is 85 decibels for industrial properties.  In an instance where noise can be measured in more than one zoning district, the standard of the more permissive district will apply. 

The ordinance will be enforced by police, but city zoning will have the ability to do so as needed.  Violations are a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 for the first offense and escalating for subsequent occurrences. 

One discussion point for the council was setting the exterior decibel limit for music venues, which are allowed to use noise-amplifying equipment between 10 a.m. and midnight.  The council agreed to 85 decibels, the same amount allowed in industrial zones. 

The new guidelines also lay the framework for a noise permit process that allows staff to issue permits for events, rather than the council having to approve noise variances.  The council will maintain the authority to overturn the denial of any permits. 

Also at today’s meeting, the council:

  • Passed a resolution to adopt administratively enforceable guidelines for filming in the city.  The resolution, which follows the council’s discussion last month of the potential of allowing filming in Brenham, is necessary in the certification process to become a Film Friendly Texas Community.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing an agreement with TxDOT to temporarily close state right-of-way for the Hot Nights, Cool Tunes summer concert series, taking place on July 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Click here to read the agenda packet for Thursday's meeting.

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