Town of Amherst, Massachusetts

By-Law Prohibitting "Unlawful Noise"

The purpose of this web site is to help understand the noise by-law of the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts. By documenting much of the noise by-law’s historical, political, legal, and enforcement background (including records of Amherst’s Town Meeting, Select Board, Town Clerk, and Police Department, as well as from local newspapers, community groups, individuals and more!) this web site attempts to investigate these different perspectives to enable users to look at sometimes conflicting interpretations and their ramifications.

Below is a version of the noise by-law, the one that is currently published by the Town Clerk. This web site contains documentation that explores the actions and intentions of the Amherst Town Meeting when they voted to enact and amend this by-law, and calls into question its acquired form and substance. Not only is the accuracy of this published version being challenged, but how this noise by-law is interpreted by any person within the Town of Amherst, especially the Amherst Police Department who are charged with enforcing it.

Ultimately, this site hopes to improve upon the existing by-law and its social undertaking in the Amherst community, as well as to provide a case study that other municipalities can learn from.



Current by-laws of the Town of Amherst as published annually by the Town Clerk:

Amended through October 2006

3. Unlawful Noise (ATM - April 27, 1987 - Art. 50)

Section 1. Unlawful Noise Prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to create, assist in creating, continue or allow to continue any excessive, unnecessary, or unusually loud noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures, or endangers the reasonable quiet, comfort, repose, or the health or safety of others within the town of Amherst. The following acts are declared to be loud, disturbing, injurious, unnecessary and unlawful noises in violation of this section, but this enumeration shall not be exclusive, namely:

a) Radio, Phonograph, Musical Instruments and Television. The playing of any radio, phonograph, television set, amplified or musical instruments, loudspeakers, tape recorder, or other electronic sound producing devices, in such a manner or with volume at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the reasonable quiet, comfort or repose of persons in any dwelling, hotel, hospital, or other type of residence, or in any office or of any persons in the vicinity.

b) Shouting and Whistling. Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, singing, or the making of any other loud noises on the public streets, between the hours of 11: 00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., or the making of any such noise at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the reasonable quiet, comfort or repose of persons in any dwelling, hotel, hospital, or other type of residence, or in any office or of any persons in the vicinity.

c) Animal Noises. The keeping of any animal or bird which, by causing frequent or long continued noise, shall disturb the reasonable comfort or repose of any person.

d) Devices to Attract Attention. The use of any drum or other instrument or device of any kind for the purpose of attracting attention by the creation of noise. This section shall not apply to any person who is a participant in a school band or duly licensed parade or who has been otherwise authorized to engage in such activity.

Section 2.
Exemptions. None of the terms or prohibitions of the previous section shall apply or be enforced against:

a) Emergency Vehicles. Any police or fire vehicle or any ambulance while engaged in necessary emergency business.

b) Highway and Utility Maintenance and Construction. Necessary excavation in or repairs of bridges, streets, or highways, or any public utility installation by or on behalf of the Town, or any public utility or any agency of the State of Massachusetts.

c) Public Address. The reasonable use of amplifiers or loud speakers for public addresses which are non-commercial in nature.

d) Noise caused by agricultural, farm-related, or forestry-related activities as defined by M.G.L. Chapter 128, Section 1A, as amended from time to time, including but not limited to the operation of farm equipment, sawmills, harvesting equipment, noises from farm animals, and the like.

Section 3. Penalties. The first violation of this By-Law shall be punished by a fine of not less that one hundred dollars ($100.00). The second violation of this by-law within 12 months after the first violation shall be punished by a fine of not less than two hundred dollars ($200.00). Further violations within 12 months after the last violation shall be punished by a fine of three hundred dollars ($300.00). Each such act which either continues or is repeated more than onehalf (1/2) hour after issuance of a written notice of violation of this by-law shall be a separate offense and shall be prosecuted as a separate offense. If the violation occurs on the premises of rental property which is a non-resident owner, then the owner must also be notified in writing that the violation has occurred.

Section 4.
Other Remedies.

a) If the person or persons responsible for an activity which violates Section 1 cannot be determined, the person in lawful custody and/or control of the premises, including but not limited to the owner, lessee or occupant of the property on which the activity is located, shall be deemed responsible for the violation.

b) If the person or persons responsible for an activity which violates Section 1 can be determined, any person or persons who violate Section 1 of this by-law may be arrested without a warrant, provided that the violation occurs in the presence or view of any officer authorized to serve criminal process.

Section 5.
Severability. If any provision of this by-law is held to be unconstitutional or otherwise invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction, the remaining provisions of the by-law shall not be invalidated.