Providence Municipal Code

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Chapter 16 — Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions

Sec. 16-10. Noise — Prohibited generally.

It is hereby declared to be a nuisance and it shall be unlawful for any person to make, cause or suffer or permit to be made or caused upon any premises owned, occupied or controlled by him, or upon any public street, alley or thoroughfare in the city unnecessary noises or sounds by means of the human voice, or by any other means or methods which are physically annoying to persons, or which are so harsh, or so prolonged or unnatural, or unusual in their use, time and place as to occasion physical discomfort, or which are injurious to the lives, health, peace and comfort of the inhabitants of the city.

Sec. 16-21. Loud or unruly gatherings — Public nuisance.

(a) [Defined.] It shall be a public nuisance to conduct a gathering of five (5) or more persons on any private property in a manner which constitutes a substantial disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property in a significant segment of a neighborhood, as a result of conduct constituting a violation of law. Illustrative of such unlawful conduct is excessive noise or traffic, obstruction of public streets by crowds or vehicles, illegal parking, public drunkenness, public urination, the service of alcohol to minors, fights, disturbances of the peace, and litter.

Article III — Noise Control

Sec. 16-91. — Declaration of policy and scope.

(a) It is hereby declared to be the policy of the city to prohibit unnecessary, excessive, and offensive noise from all sources subject to its police power for the sole purpose of securing and promoting the public health, comfort, safety, and welfare of the citizenry. While recognizing that the use of sound is protected by the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and assembly, unnecessary, excessive, and offensive noises threatens the correlative constitutional rights of the citizens of the community to privacy and freedom from public nuisance and is detrimental to the health, comfort, safety, and welfare of the citizenry. It is with all due consideration of these competing interests that the city council herein regulates the time, place, and manner of the use of sound.

Sec. 16-92. — Definitions.

Unnecessary, excessive, or offensive noise: Any sound or noise conflicting with the criteria, standards, or levels set forth in this article for permissible noises. In the absence of specific maximum noise levels, a noise level which exceeds the ambient noise level by ten (10) dBA or more, when measured at or within the real property boundary of a receiving land use or, in the case of multiple-family residential buildings, when measured anywhere in one (1) dwelling unit with respect to a noise emanating from another dwelling unit or from common space in the same building, or noise audible to a person of reasonably sensitive hearing at a distance of two hundred (200) feet from its source, shall be deemed a prima facie violation of this article.

Sec. 16-93. — Unnecessary, excessive or offensive noise prohibited.

(a) Except as permitted, it shall be unlawful for any person to make, continue, permit or cause to be made or continued any unnecessary, excessive, or offensive noise as defined in this article. Unnecessary, excessive, or offensive noise shall include but not be limited to sound that exceeds the permissible standards provided in subsection (3) of this provision when measured at or within the real property boundary of a receiving land use or noise audible to a person of reasonably sensitive hearing at a distance of two hundred (200) feet from its source.

(b) For any violation of this provision, the receiving land use involved may include real property contiguous to, or bounding the real property containing the source of the sound.

(c) With the exception of sound levels or standards specifically authorized or prohibited in this article, the following are the maximum permissible sound levels allowed at or within the real property boundary of a receiving land use or two hundred (200) feet from its source:

Sounds Levels by Receiving Land Use*

Zoning District Time Sound Limit (dBA)
Residential
7:00 a.m. to 9:59 p.m.
10:00 p.m. to 6:59 a.m.
65 dBA
55 dBA
Downtown
2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
All other times
55 dBA
75 dBA
Commercial / Industrial
2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
All other times
55 dBA
75 dBA
Open Spaces
2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
All other times
55 dBA
75 dBA
Waterfront
2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
55 dBA

* “Receiving land use” means the property where the noise can be heard

Noise from Dwellings

Sec. 16-95. — Disorderly house.

(a) No person shall keep a disorderly house or place of public resort whereby the peace, comfort, or decency of a neighbor is habitually disturbed, or being the owner of, or in control of such premises, intentionally permit them to be so used.

(b) For purposes of this provision, a disorderly house is defined as a residence or dwelling in which two or more noise violations resulting in a conviction or convictions in the municipal court have occurred within a three-year period.

(c) Notice of noise violation convictions shall be mailed to any property owner on the city property tax assessment records to advise the property owner(s) that any subsequent such violation(s) within three (3) years on the same premises shall result in liability of the property owner for any and all penalties associated with such intervention.

(d) The owner of such residence or dwelling may assert as a defense reasonable efforts to take action against the perpetrators of the violation of this article, including the initiation of eviction proceedings pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws.


Noise from Vehicles

Horns*

Sec. 16-11. — Sounding of horn or signal device of vehicle.
The sounding of any horn or signal device on any automobile, motorcycle, bus, streetcar, or other vehicle while not in motion is declared to be a loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise and is prohibited, except when such horn or signal device is sounded as a danger signal if another vehicle is approaching apparently out of control.

Sec. 16-12. — Sounding horn, signal device for unnecessary period.
The creation by means of any horn or signal device of any unreasonable or harsh sound and the sounding of such device for an unnecessary or unreasonable period of time is hereby declared to be a loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise in violation of section 16-10 hereof.

* Both ordinances above date back to the 1940s — unnecessary use of vehicle horns is not a “new” issue.

Mufflers

Sec. 16-99. — Motor vehicles. No person shall remove or render inoperative, or cause to be removed or rendered inoperative, other than for purposes of maintenance, repair, or replacement, any muffler or sound dissipative device on any motor vehicle.

Large commercial trucks are sometimes cited as sources of noise in Providence, especially when they idle
for long periods in residential neighborhoods with narrow streets not intended for over-sized vehicles.

Section 15-11. — Residential parking / standing of certain commercial vehicles
(a) For the purpose of this article, a commercial vehicle shall be defined as any vehicle in excess of twenty (20) feet in length and / or any vehicle over six thousand-five hundred (6,500) pounds gross vehicle weight.
(b) No commercial vehicle shall park or stand, unless engaged in the loading or off-loading of materials, for more than one (1) hour between nine (9:00) PM of one (1) day and eight (8:00) AM of the following day, or at any time on Sunday, on any part of any street, way, highway, road, or parkway under the control of the City.
(c) No vehicle shall park off-street in any front-yard area of any dwelling house unless the same shall have been approved for the parking of such vehicles by the appropriate municipal agency.

(f) (1) Any commercial vehicle otherwise in violation of this section and having an engine idling shall be deemed to be a hazard to the quality of life.

See also Rhode Island state laws pertaining to vehicle noise


Noise from speakers

Sec. 16-105. — Amplified sound — Regulations.
The commercial and noncommercial use of sound amplifying equipment shall conform to the regulations set forth in section 16-93(c), and be subject to the following regulations:

(1) The volume of sound shall be controlled so that it will not be audible for a distance in excess of two hundred (200) feet from its source, except as provided herein.

(2) No sound amplifying equipment shall be operated so as to exceed seventy-five (75) decibels, except as provided herein.

(3) In order to use sound amplifying equipment outside of the regulations provided herein, the prospective user of sound amplifying equipment shall file a registration statement with the police department not less than five (5) days prior to the date on which the sound amplifying equipment is intended to be used.


Noise from Dogs

Sec. 4-47. — Conditions declared nuisance; abatement required.

(a) The keeping or harboring of any dog, whether licensed or not, which by unreasonable and habitual howling, barking, or any other noise, disturbs a surrounding or adjacent neighbor or neighbors, is hereby declared to be a public nuisance. The said neighbor complaining about the dog nuisance must be willing to sign a complaint and testify in court as to the offending animal. The person or owner of the dog must be warned at least once by the dog officer or a representative of the police department or animal shelter. The dog officer shall investigate the complaint to such an extent so as to hear the animal in question barking and to show that the animal is a public nuisance and / or a bother to the peaceful inhabitants of the city, or the neighborhood. The dog officer, if he finds a nuisance exists shall serve written notice upon the owner or custodian of said animal to show that the animal is a public nuisance.

If after said offense has been noted and said offense, howling, barking, or any other noise which disturbs a neighbor is not abated, the owner shall be brought to municipal court and fined twenty-five dollars ($25.00) for the first offense and fifty dollars ($50.00) for the second offense and if a third offense exists, said dog shall be impounded.

(b) It shall be unlawful to allow or permit any animal to trespass on private or public property so as to damage or destroy any property or thing of value, and the same is hereby declared to be a nuisance and any such animal may be impounded by the dog officer whenever it shall be alleged in writing by three (3) or more persons having separate residences, or regularly employed in the neighborhood that any animal is a nuisance by reason of barking, howling, yelping or other noise, trespassing, causing damage to property, or is vicious or in any manner causing undue annoyance, the dog officer if he finds such nuisance to exist, shall serve notice upon the owner or custodian that such nuisance must be abated.

(c) If the nuisance [as specified in subsection (b)] is not abated, the dog officer may impound the animal, notify the owner to appear before the Providence Police [Municipal] Court for a hearing to determine if there has been a violation of section 4-47. Each day shall constitute a separate offense.


Complaints and Penalties

Sec. 16-107. — Violations — Public nuisance; injunctions.
Any violation of any provision of this shall be deemed, and is declared to be, a public nuisance and may be subject to abatement summarily by a restraining order or injunction issued by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Sec. 16-109. — Complaints.
Any person, including a police officer, may be a complainant for the purpose of instituting action for any violation of this article.

(Ord. 1968, ch. 68-41, § 17, 6-6-68; Ord. 1983, ch. 83-66, § 1, 12-20-83)


PART I — HOME RULE CHARTER

ARTICLE III — MAYOR

302 — Powers and duties of the mayor.

The powers and duties of the mayor shall include, without limitation, the following:

(g) To insure that all officers of the city faithfully comply with and discharge their official duties.