Understanding Pittsburgh's Noise Ordinances

In this blog post, we'll explore the details of Pittsburgh's noise ordinances and laws, and outline how residents can navigate them to maintain harmony.

Living in a bustling city like Pittsburgh, it's important to strike a balance between enjoying the vibrant urban environment and respecting the peace and tranquility of residential neighborhoods. To maintain harmony, the city has implemented noise ordinances that outline specific regulations for controlling excessive noise.

Why Pittsburgh's Noise Ordinances Matter:

Noise ordinances act as a framework to mitigate the negative impact of excessive noise on the quality of life for residents. They help prevent disturbances that could disrupt the peace, hamper sleep, and affect overall well-being. By understanding and adhering to these ordinances, Pittsburgh residents can contribute to a more harmonious community and a more peaceful environment.

The city has implemented noise ordinances that outline specific regulations for controlling excessive noise. Recently, the Pittsburgh City Council passed amendments to the Zoning Code (Title Nine) to provide more current and enforceable construction and noise standards.

Key Points to Know About Pittsburgh's Noise Ordinances

General Restrictions:

Pittsburgh's noise ordinances prohibit any sound that unreasonably disturbs the peace and quiet of residential areas. According to the amended Section 916.06 of the Zoning Code, no use subject to Residential Compatibility Standards shall generate noise in excess of 55 dB(A) or 3 dB(A) above background sound level between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., or in excess of 65 dB(A) or 3 dB(A) above background sound level at all other times, as measured at the lot line of any residential zoning district. 

Violations may result in penalties and fines.  However, it is important to analyze what the language of Section 916.06 means to better understand your rights when it comes to navigating noise level disputes with neighbors.  First, note that this limitation applies onto uses of property subject to residential compatibility standards, so in other words we are not talking about commercial properties engaging in loud activities.  Since noise is to be measured from the adjacent lot line with a residential zoning designation, commercial property owners also have less standing under this section to file complaints against residential owners for loud activities.  

       Second, note that the noise is to be measured in decibels not simply from the loudest point that a nearby neighbor could walk to hear and/or record the noise levels.  Sound level sampling must occur on a point on the property line where just over the other side of the subject property is residentially zoned property. This means that a neighbor making a complaint under this section must be able to hear the noise above the stated decibel levels from a point on that adjoining residential line.  The noise concerned neighbor or law enforcement officer is permitted to take the sampling from any point on that adjoining residential line.  Property owners concerned about noise levels from their activities should consider centering those activities within the property boundaries so as to prevent one specific point on the property line from experiencing higher decibel levels than other points on the adjacent property line. 

       Third, note that the noise level under this section is not a 24-hour restriction.  The code covers the night time hours of 10:00pm - 6:00am when other residents may be sleeping.  So while those neighboring dogs may feel like a nuisance barking during your lunch hour, this section of the zoning code does not prohibit noise at any decibel level for the other sixteen hours of the day. 

Specific Noise Regulations:

Construction Noise

The amended Section 916.05.C of the Zoning Code prohibits construction activities, including demolition and excavation, between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless within a fully enclosed structure. The new Section 917.06 allows construction operations with valid permits between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., with impact construction limited to 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Exceptions may be granted with an approved Construction Management Plan.

Vehicle Noise

Excessive noise generated by vehicles, including motorcycles, horns, and loud exhaust systems, is also regulated. It is essential for vehicle owners to ensure that their vehicles comply with noise emission standards and refrain from generating unnecessary disturbances.

Other Amplified Sounds

Amplified sounds, such as loudspeakers, public address systems, and musical instruments, requires permits for public performances or events. Volume levels must be controlled to avoid disruption to nearby residents.

How to Handle Noise Complaints:

If you experience excessive noise disturbances in your Pittsburgh neighborhood, it's essential to address the issue while maintaining cordial relationships with your neighbors. 

Here are steps you can take:

  1. Communicate: Speak directly to individuals responsible for the noise to make them aware of the problem. In many cases, they may be unaware of the impact of their actions.
  2. Contact Local Authorities: If the issue persists, contact Pittsburgh's non-emergency police line or the local Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment (BNE). They have the authority to investigate noise complaints and enforce the established noise ordinances.
  3. Dial 311 or 412-255-2621 to report the noise complaint

Pennsylvania's "nuisance neighbor law"

In addition to noise ordinances, Pennsylvania state law can also be used to prevent noise related disruptions.

Under Title 18, Chapter 65, § 6504, whoever erects, sets up, establishes, maintains, keeps or continues, or causes to be erected, set up, established, maintained, kept or continued, any public or common nuisance can be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. This means that individuals or businesses responsible for creating or maintaining a nuisance, such as persistent loud noise, can face charges.

If a person is convicted of violating the public nuisance ordinance and the nuisance still exists at the time of the conviction and sentencing, the court has the discretion to order the abatement of the nuisance. The court can direct either the defendant or the sheriff of the county, at the defendant's expense, to take action to remove or eliminate the nuisance.

Modern Solutions for Addressing Noise Concerns:

In addition to traditional dispute resolution methods, technological advancements have brought about innovative solutions to address noise concerns:

  1. Noise Mapping: Utilizing noise sensors and sophisticated software, cities can create noise maps that highlight areas with high noise levels. This data helps policymakers make informed decisions regarding noise mitigation measures.
  2. Noise Apps: Smartphone applications, like NoiseCapture and SoundPrint, allow users to measure noise levels, report disturbances, and collect data to identify patterns of excessive noise.

Pittsburgh's noise ordinances play a vital role in maintaining the quality of life for residents in various neighborhoods. By understanding and adhering to these regulations, we can ensure a harmonious balance between the vibrant urban environment and the need for peace and tranquility.  Additionally, embracing technological innovations enables us to tackle noise concerns more effectively and create a more serene city for all.

     Keep these sources of legal authority in mind next time you are in a situation where noise has become an issue, whether you are planning a potentially noisy event at your own home or when neighboring activities disturb your life activities.  Knowing your rights and obligations as a Pittsburgh resident when it comes to noise leaves you more prepared to speak with neighbors and law enforcement officials.

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About the author
Von Wooding

Von Wooding

Counsel Stack develops grounded language models equipped with research, retrieval, and drafting tools. We offer legal leads, pre-built intelligent applications, and white label solutions.

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