Shhh! Fort Worth Passes Noise Limits

City's unique law specifies how loud is too loud

The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday night passed a unique noise law that sets precise limits on how loud is too loud.

In business areas, police can write citations for noises that are louder than 70 decibels at night or 80 decibels during the day.

In residential neighborhoods, the limits are even stricter -- 60 decibels at night or 70 decibels during the day.

In passing the ordinance, Fort Worth becomes one of the few big cities in the country that sets specific limits on noise.

Most cities, including Dallas, allow police officers to write citations if the noise level is "unreasonable based on the officer's personal observations" and someone complains about it, said Dallas police spokesman Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse.

Before the Fort Worth council voted on the ordinance, one woman complained that the measure doesn't address loud trains.

"The noise is very bad," she said.

City Council members said they cannot include trains in the ordinance because railroads are governed by federal law.

Also at the meeting, a professional sound engineer said the new limits are just too strict.

"These sound levels are really unworkable and not realistic," Robert Morris said. "An acoustic guitar -- played with the fingers from 1 foot away -- is 80 decibels. That violates the nighttime ordinance that you're proposing."

According to the new city ordinance, the sound is measured not at the source, but at the property line of the person making the complaint, city officials said.

Fort Worth issued 249 noise citations last year, said Fort Worth police Maj. Billy Cordell.

Cordell said police would work with businesses and residents to find solutions and not just write tickets.

Exceptions are made for industrial zones.

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