Massena Town Council to revise proposed noise ordinance
Thursday, May 21, 2020 - 5:33 pm

BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week

MASSENA -- The Town Council will go back to the drawing board and revise their proposed noise ordinance.

The board held a public hearing on the proposal during a Wednesday, May 20 meeting streamed online via Facebook Live.

Several locals spoke on behalf of Alcoa, Arconic and the farm industry. They all felt the language was too vague and could possibly punish manufacturers and farms for the noises that occur from their daily operations. The board ended up voting to table the motion until their June meeting.

“The town addresses unnecessary and unusually loud noises, which is far subjective,” said a speaker who called in and identified himself as Kevin Kitzman, an Arconic employee. “It’s not clear in the context of an ongoing operation.”

“I think the issue of sound agricultural practices … is vague. I would caution you against that because that’s very subjective,” said a caller who identified herself as Kathleen Hyde. “I would want to see something either more specific, or that it exempts farm animals.”

A caller who identified himself as Derrick Lucey, Alcoa operations manager, said the company is willing to work with the town in crafting a new version of the bill.

“The Town of Massena has a long and proud history of manufacturing … co-existed with residents for well over a century … Massena has ample space and natural buffers against noise,” he said. “We encourage that you reach out to even more businesses and residents for comments.

“Alcoa is willing to meet and discuss with you and the town.”

The hearing was initially struck by technical difficulties as viewers were able to see but not hear the proceedings. It was halted and returned about 10 minutes later with working sound.

Town Attorney Eric Gustfson said given the glitches and the comments criticizing the proposed ordinance as subjective, the board would be wise to table it.

Councilor Sue Bellor suggested a minimum decibel level and is encouraged by local businesses reaching out to express their concerns over the proposed local law.

“They do have norms for decibels for sound for a lot of different things,” she said. “I was pleased we had six businesses contact us. They’re paying attention. That’s great.”

Gustafson said a decibel threshold for determining a violation could lead to more work and expenses for the town.

“We have some cases where you have things like ‘this is the decibels we find tolerable at the edge of the property.’ You run into problems with that … you get into things like having equipment, like a decibel meter. It has to be maintained with logs certifying its accuracy” and is subject to discovery in court proceedings, he said.

Councilor Bob Elsner and Town Supervisor Steve O’Shaughnessy shared opposite views of whether industry or residences should take precedence in areas where they are side-by-side.

“The expectation is the residents trump industrial work. The industrial complex was there first, and then the residents second. Now the residents are saying ‘you’re making too much noise,’” Elsner said. He also suggested the Grasse River PCB remediation project be “grandfathered in.”

“I don’t want us to overthink it. All the businesses I talked to, I asked them specifically, ‘have you had complaints?’ And none of them had,” the supervisor said. “If there is somebody that comes in and wants to plop down near a residential area and make noise at night, that keeps the neighborhood awake.

“Two thirds of the tax base is residential. I don’t think that’s neighborly.”

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