Noise ordinance: Should the town speak softly and carry a big stick?

Did the sparse crowd at the public information meeting on a noise ordinance Monday speak volumes or did it show the reluctance of neighbors to inflame disputes over disquieting episodes?

According to Gary Gerard of Musket Ridge Road, the lack of attendance illustrated how "people are afraid to come out of the closet on this issue."

Mr. Gerard said his neighborhood is plagued by "barking dogs, ATVs, and leaf blowers." His property is adjacent to the Silvermine Golf Course in southwestern Wilton, and he said workers there run leaf blowers and noisy lawn equipment in the early mornings and on weekends.

"Something needs to be done," he said.

One more resident spoke in favor of a noise ordinance, Karen Tell of Whipstick Road, who described concerns with "barking dogs and a rooster." Ms. Tell said "there is little impetus to respond to just a phone call or a friendly suggestion ... There ought to be a law, a stated municipal policy" so residents complaining of noise problems do not "sound like whiny neighbors."

"The policies ought to be clear, not on an ad hoc basis," she said.

Police Chief Michael Lombardo presented a report at the meeting showing complaints over a three-year period, and describing Wiltonians as mostly cooperative. "Almost every time we've had a noise complaint, there's been compliance," said Chief Lombardo.

In 2010, the Wilton police received 27 noise complaints, 41 in 2011, and 22 so far this year, according to the chief.

Selectman Jim Saxe, who is the panel's liaison on the issue, also made a presentation, defining a noise ordinance as a law that basically "defines which sounds are and are not acceptable at any given times so that residents can live comfortably within a community in terms of the sounds that they hear."

Mr. Saxe said area towns are split fairly evenly when it comes to having noise ordinances. "New Canaan, Norwalk, Redding, Greenwich and Ridgefield have noise ordinances," while other nearby towns do not, he said. "Towns that are more densely populated seem to have more of a need."

First Selectman Bill Brennan said the selectmen will continue to address the issue, and raised the ideas of perhaps contacting officials at the Silvermine golf course or inserting new language in zoning regulations.

"It's a tough decision and we have to find a solution that is right for the entire community," he said.