ST. CROIX—The Committee on Government Affairs, Veterans, Energy and Environmental Protection, chaired by Senator Sammuel Sanes, met Wednesday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room to receive testimonies and consider a measure regarding noise pollution.
Bill No. 32-0011, proposed by Sen. Novelle E. Francis, Jr., amends Title 19 Virgin Islands Code, part VI, chapter 62. The measure clarified the definition of noise disturbance and permissible sound levels for commercial, non-commercial vehicles and motorcycles, and addressed sound levels for music emanating from cars and business establishments.
The measure eliminates the requirement for special permits for weekend activities and as amended, mandates that “After 11:00 p.m. and before 7:00 a.m., all owners of nightclubs, taverns or bars must not make, cause or permit to be made or caused continuous or non-continuous noise or sound from live entertainment that exceeds an interior rating of 90 decibels (90 dBA) over a three minute time period on an approved sound meter when measured within the establishment at a distance of 100 ft. from the source”.
Penalties for failure to comply with the Noise Pollution Act are as follows:
• Any person who refuses to submit to a sound level test when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer is guilty of a civil offense punishable by a fine of $250.
• Any person convicted of violating section 2042 of this chapter is guilty of a civil offense punishable by a fine of $500.
• Any person is subject to a fine of $1,000 for that violation and each subsequent violation.
The owner of any business at which a sound or sounds emanate that constitute a noise disturbance or exceed the noise limit is subject to a fine of $250 for the first violation, a $500 fine for the second, a $1,000 fine for the third and each violation thereafter. Upon a third violation, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, in addition to imposing a fine of $1,000, shall call the person before the DLCA to show cause why the person’s business license should not be suspended or revoked.
The measure authorizes the DLCA and the Department of Health as entities in conjunction with the Virgin Islands Police Department to determine whether violations have taken place and enforce the Noise Pollution Control Act. Mark A. Corneiro, Deputy Chief of Police provided testimony in support of the measure and encouraged input by the Attorney General’s Office to address any issues that may put the VIPD at a disadvantage.
Howard A. Forbes, Sr., Acting Director of the Division of Environmental Enforcement of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources informed the members of the body that the Division has no jurisdiction on noise pollution, nor the equipment and specialized training required to handle noise complaints, but will provide the VIPD any assistance with the source of the complaint.
Dr. Wincess Gentius, Clinical Doctor of Audiology, represented the Dept. of Health in her testimony. “The context of sound is subjective,” she stated. “Although the specifics of Bill No. 32-0011 are timely, the Department of Health is unable to support these enforcement efforts. It is imperative that the framework of this legislation include enforcement tools equipment and staffing in order to for this bill to have a real impact in the lives of our residents”.
The Committee voted in favor of the Bill as amended and sent it to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.
Committee members at Wednesday’s meeting were: Chairman Senator Sammuel Sanes, Marvin Blyden, Jean Forde, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, and Janette Millin-Young. Non-Committee members present were Senators Brian Smith and Novelle Francis, Jr.