The Need to Control Noise Pollution

By Dom Nozzi

As a senior planner for Gainesville, Florida in the 1990s, one of my accomplishments was that I substantially re-wrote the noise ordinance for Gainesville. In combination with my environmental science degree, I came to learn a number of things in revising the City noise regulations.noise

1. Noise pollution is the most neglected form of pollution in America, and it is growing steadily worse for a number of reasons.

2. Motor vehicles tend to be the primary source of noise in cities.

3. Emergency vehicle sirens are an enormous and growing problem — particularly in town center locations, and especially when elected officials don’t have the awareness or courage to rein in their use by their emergency service staff.

4. Even the best noise ordinances do little to control noise unless there is effective enforcement of the noise regulations. It is very common to assign enforcement to the police, but since the police department understandably gives noise enforcement a low priority (compared to, say, murders), police don’t tend to do well in regularly enforcing noise violations. The best strategy I learned about at the time was in Boulder, Colorado. Back in the 1990s, that city hired full-time staff who were charged with noise enforcement full time.

5. Effective noise control is near the top of my list of quality of life strategies — particularly when a community seeks to promote more in-town (vs sprawl) housing. I’m certain that a number of people who refuse to live in a town center are avoiding that location because of noise problems.

Therefore, noise control is essential to discourage sprawl and promote more town center residential.

6. An important reason why noise pollution has become a growing problem is that there is a growth in the amount of uncivil behavior engaged in by citizens. In a “Me Generation,” we find that many people often act as if there is no need to be concerned about others. I was horrified recently to hear a comment a young college student gave a code enforcement officer when the officer asked why the student was maintaining an unkempt, litter-strewn front yard. The student responded by indignantly claiming that his right to litter was due to his living in a “free” country.

It scares me that a large number of Americans may actually believe that uncivil behavior is a form of political liberty. “The US Constitution gives me the right to blast my stereo at 120 decibels at 2 am.”

Is this belief a widespread cause of many of our societal problems today?


Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.


Or email me at: dom[AT]

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