Monday, March 23, 2009

Laws aim for quieter neighborhoods


HONOLULU -- Car alarms, leaf blowers, construction. Neighborhood bars. Motorcycles.

Noise pollution is a big problem on Oahu, and every year lawmakers try to do something about it. And every year, they fail.

This year’s crop of bills includes SB 605, addressing low-frequency noise in particular, setting decibel standards for night and authorizing the state Department of Health and county Liquor Commission to enforce them.

Many residents favor noise control.

“Loud late-night noise continues to polarize our community. Residents want a healthy neighborhood, one that includes them being able to sleep in their own homes at night,” said Susan Lebo, a resident of Chinatown Gateway Plaza in testimony.

Both the Department of Health and the Honolulu Liquor Commission oppose the legislation, saying they don’t have the money to enforce new rules.

SB 466 tackles leaf blowers, making it unlawful to operate them in a residential neighborhood, except between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on any day except Sunday or a federal holiday, and between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday or a federal holiday.

“We generally favor a quieter environment. We appreciate that some people dislike noisy leaf blowers/yard equipment,” said Dr. Chiyome Leinaala Fukino, director of the Department of Health. “Noise can be a nuisance and disturb sleep, even if it does not reach the levels that cause hearing damage. (But) There are also practical considerations in achieving a quieter environment.”

Recognizing the futility of trying to pass a law, Sen. Carol Fukunaga and other senators have created a resolution instead. SCR 62 tackles car alarms by requesting vehicle owners to turn them off or make them less sensitive.

“The activation of a single audible motor vehicle alarm system can disturb and awaken hundreds of area residents,” the resolution states.