Chapter 10.25


10.25.010    Title.

10.25.020    Policy and purpose.

10.25.030    Definitions.

10.25.040    Public noise disturbance.

10.25.045    Public nuisance noises.

10.25.050    Exemptions.

10.25.060    Enforcement.

10.25.070    Violation – Civil infraction – Exceptions.

10.25.080    Violation – Misdemeanor.

10.25.090    Severability.

10.25.010 Title.

This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the noise control chapter and shall be codified as Chapter 10.25 CCC. [Ord. 12-150, § 2, 11-6-12.]

10.25.020 Policy and purpose.

A. The purpose of this chapter is to regulate excessive intermittent noises that interfere with the use, value and enjoyment of property and which pose a hazard to the public health, safety and welfare.

B. This chapter is not intended to regulate the content of any form of speech or expression.

C. Findings of Special Conditions. The problem of noise in Cowlitz County has been observed by the Cowlitz County Board of Commissioners and county staff and is documented by the complaints received and logged in the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Department. On the basis of these observations and complaints, the Board finds that special conditions exist within the county which make necessary any and all differences between this chapter and the regulations adopted by the Washington State Department of Ecology. [Ord. 12-150, § 3, 11-6-12.]

10.25.030 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter the following words and phrases shall be defined as follows:

“Construction” means any activity necessary or incidental to the erection, demolition, assembling, altering, installing, repairing or equipping of buildings, roadways or utilities, including land clearing, grading, excavating and filling.

“Day” or “daytime,” for the purposes of this chapter, means the hours between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. on weekends.

“Dwelling unit” means a building or portion thereof regularly used for residential occupancy.

“Dynamic braking device” means a device, commonly called “jake brakes,” used primarily on trucks and buses to convert the motor from an internal combustion engine to an air compressor for the purpose of vehicle braking without the use of wheel brakes.

“Motor vehicle” means any land vehicle that is or is designed to be self-propelled and/or that is designed or used for transporting persons or property.

“Off-highway vehicle” means any self-propelled motor-driven vehicle not used primarily for transporting persons or property upon public highways not required to be licensed under RCW 46.16.010. “Off-highway vehicle” shall include dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, but shall not include special construction vehicles.

“Person” means an individual, corporation, partnership, association, governmental body, state or other entity whatsoever.

“Property” means anything of value, whether tangible or intangible, real or personal.

“Public noise disturbance” means any sound which: (1) because of its random or infrequent occurrence, or because of lack of association to any land use zoning in Cowlitz County which comports with the zoning of the quantitative system in Chapter 173-60 WAC, is not conducive to quantitative measurement; and (2) endangers or injures the safety or health of humans or animals, or endangers or damages personal or real property, or annoys, disturbs or perturbs any reasonable person of normal sensitivities, or is specifically included in those listed in CCC 10.25.040.

“Repetitive” noisemaking by an animal or animals means, which while not continuous, constitutes 10 minutes or more of any half-hour time span.

“Rural, residential areas” means those areas primarily comprised of single-family residences, multiple-family living accommodations, recreational and entertainment facilities (e.g., camps, parks, and resorts), and community service facilities (e.g., orphanages, eldercare and group homes, hospitals, health and correctional facilities).

“Sheriff” means the Cowlitz County Sheriff or a commissioned Deputy Sheriff. [Ord. 12-150, § 4, 11-6-12.]

10.25.040 Public noise disturbance.

It is unlawful for any person to cause, or for any person in possession of property to allow to originate from the property, sound that is a public noise disturbance, as being a public nuisance.

A. Public Noise Disturbance, Day and Night. Sounds resulting from the following activities, occurring at any hour of the day or night, are determined to be public noise disturbances:

1. Keeping or harboring any animal or animals whose frequent, repetitive or continuous noisemaking unreasonably interferes with the peace and comfort of persons in rural, residential area, except farm animals in unincorporated areas where farm animals are allowed, and except the keeping or harboring of animals in commercial kennels, animal shelters, veterinary hospitals, pet shops, and grooming parlors provided they are in compliance with the provisions of any conditional use permit or SEPA determination or permit approval condition.

2. The use of unmuffled exhaust systems on motor vehicles, off-road vehicles and recreational watercraft.

3. Creation of frequent, repetitive or continuous sounds in connection with starting, repairing, operating or testing of motor vehicles, off-road vehicles, or internal combustion engines in a manner that interferes with the peace and comfort of persons in rural, residential area.

4. The frequent, repetitive or continuous sounding of any horn or siren attached to a motor vehicle, expect as a warning of danger or as specifically permitted or required by law.

5. The making of any loud and raucous sound within 1,000 feet of any school, hospital, sanitarium, nursing or convalescent facility, which unreasonably interferes with the use of such facility, or with the peace, comfort, or repose of persons therein.

6. The use of a sound amplifier on public streets for commercial advertising or for the purpose of attracting attention to the vehicle, except as permitted by law; provided, that ice cream vendors whose sole method of sale is from a moving vehicle shall be exempted. It is unlawful for any person to cause, or for any person in possession of property to allow to originate from the property, sound that is a public noise disturbance.

7. The creation, by use of a musical instrument, sound amplifier or other device capable of producing or reproducing sound, of sounds heard as comprehensible music rhythms or felt:

a. Within a residence not originating the noise; or

b. Outdoors in commercial or in rural, residential areas at a distance of 75 feet or more from the noise source. Such sounds include band sessions, automobile sound systems, and electronic sound reproduction equipment whether the source of the sound is stationary, portable, or in a motor vehicle.

B. Public Noise Disturbances, at Night in Rural, Residential Areas. Sounds resulting from the following activities are determined to be public noise disturbances when they occur at night and noise is received on property in any rural, residential area.

1. Operation within a rural, residential area of any mechanically powered saw, drill, sander, grinder, blower, fan, garden tool or similar device, except devices engaged in emergency work exempted under CCC 10.25.050.

2. Operating or permitting someone to operate an internal combustion powered model.

3. Construction activity, including blasting, unless a public disturbance exemption permit pursuant to CCC 10.25.050 is obtained.

4. The operation or idling, for more than 10 minutes at a time, of stationary trucks weighing in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR, except vehicles engaged in emergency or public utility work exempted under CCC 10.25.050.

5. The sounding of bells, chimes or carillons.

6. The creation by use of a musical instrument, whistle, human voice, sound amplifier, or other device capable of producing or reproducing sound, of loud and raucous sounds which emanate frequently, repetitively or continuously from any building, structure, vehicle or property, such as sounds originating from a band session, automobile sound system or social gathering.

C. Exemptions from CCC 10.25.050. Sounds resulting from activities identified in subsections A and B of this section shall not be considered public noise disturbances if the activity which produces the noise is operated or produced in conformance with a valid conditional use permit, a SEPA determination or a permit approval condition.

No sound source specifically exempted from provisions of this chapter by CCC 10.25.050 may be determined to be a public noise disturbance, to the extent that the particular source of the noise is exempted. [Ord. 12-150, § 5, 11-6-12.]

10.25.045 Public nuisance noises.

It is unlawful for any person to cause or allow to be emitted a public nuisance noise. A public nuisance noise is any noise which unreasonably annoys, injures, interferes with, or endangers the comfort, repose, health or safety of three or more persons residing within separate residences in the same community or neighborhood, although the extent of the damage may be unequal. [Ord. 12-150, § 6, 11-6-12.]

10.25.050 Exemptions.

A. The following sounds are exempt from the provisions of this chapter:

1. Sounds that originate from aircraft in flight, and sounds that originate at airports and are directly related to flight operations; provided, that such operations are in compliance with all applicable regulations;

2. Sounds created by audible alarms, unless otherwise covered by Cowlitz County Code;

3. Sounds created by emergency equipment and public utility equipment, or any other sounds from emergency work necessary for law enforcement or fire protection or the health, safety and welfare of the community;

4. Sounds created by the discharge of firearms: (a) in the course of recreational activities during the time of year and time of day prescribed by state law for such activity, and if no time period is prescribed by law for such activity then the time of day shall begin one-half hour after sunrise and end one-half hour after sunset; and (b) in the course of protecting life, limb or property; (c) in accordance with development standards for an outdoor public shooting range permitted under Chapter 10.22 CCC; or (d) any other law enforcement related activity as deemed necessary by the Sheriff. However, there shall be no exemption for any discharge of firearms that is in violation of any other provisions of law;

5. Sounds originating from forest land management activities or agriculture activities;

6. Sounds created by equipment or motor vehicles used for road and drainage maintenance;

7. Sounds created by off-road vehicles operating between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.; provided, that all such vehicles are operated with noise-suppression equipment, and sounds created by individual off-road vehicles between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., whether noise-suppression equipment is installed or not, while being used at, but not in transit to or from, officially designated off-road vehicle parks and race tracks during a sponsored public event provided the off-road vehicle park or race track, as a whole, meets the noise standards of Chapter 70.107 RCW and any regulations thereunder; for purposes of this section, “noise-suppression equipment” means either: (a) factory equipped and installed noise-suppression devices; or (b) the equivalent thereof; and “sponsored public event” means an event requiring oversight by a registered or licensed organization or club where there is a designated person for contact and where participants would normally pay an entry fee and it is open to the general public by the issuance of an admission ticket;

8. Sounds created by warning devices not operated continuously for more than 30 minutes;

9. Sounds created by the operation of equipment or facilities of surface carriers engaged in commerce by railroad;

10. Sounds that originate from public works projects;

11. Sounds created by construction, other than public works projects, between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.;

12. Sound created by refuse removal equipment;

13. Sounds originating from officially approved parades and other public events;

14. Sounds originating from fireworks authorized pursuant to Chapter 70.77 RCW;

15. Sounds originating from ordinary maintenance of real or personal property during daylight hours. Such activities include, but are not limited to, landscape maintenance, house painting, firewood cutting, and gardening;

16. Sounds originating from normal travel on roads. However, this exemption does not apply to the operation of any motor vehicle in excess of 10,000 pounds gross combined weight rating within 200 feet of any residence and with a dynamic braking device engaged, unless such device does not increase the sound level emitted by the vehicle under power;

17. Sound originating from commercial or industrial activities, provided such activities are conducted in conformance with Chapter 70.107 RCW and regulations thereunder. [Ord. 12-150, § 7, 11-6-12.]

10.25.060 Enforcement.

The primary authority and responsibility for enforcing this chapter, except as addressed below, are vested in the Sheriff, who may take such enforcement measures as he or she deems appropriate. Such measures may include, but are not limited to, the issuance of verbal or written warnings, the issuance of notices of civil infraction, and citation as misdemeanors when allowed under this chapter. The Sheriff may refer enforcements to the Prosecuting Attorney for misdemeanors prosecution or for other legal action. [Ord. 12-150, § 8, 11-6-12.]

10.25.070 Violation – Civil infraction – Exceptions.

A. Sheriff and Enforcement Personnel. The Sheriff or Director of Public Works, or Building and Planning Director, as set forth hereunder, shall be responsible for administration and for the exemptions under CCC 10.25.040 and 10.25.050. The Sheriff or any duly appointed Deputy Sheriff is authorized and directed to administer and enforce the provisions of this chapter pertaining to public noise disturbances and all exemptions not otherwise provided for hereunder. The Director of Public Works is authorized and directed to administer the provisions and the exemptions under CCC 10.25.050(A)(3) and (10). The Building and Planning Director is authorized to administer the provisions and exemptions under CCC 10.25.040(A)(1) and (3). All county departments are authorized to assist the Sheriff, the Department of Building and Planning, and the Department of Public Works in the administration and enforcement of this chapter.

B. Public Disturbance Enforcement. Any person found to be in violation of the provisions of CCC 10.25.040 governing public disturbance noise shall be deemed to have committed a civil infraction as established in Chapter 7.80 RCW and for each violation shall be subject to a civil penalty of $75.00; provided, that a second infraction is subject to a civil penalty of $150.00; and provided, that a third and subsequent infractions are subject to a civil penalty of $300.00.

C. There shall be a penalty of $25.00 for failure to respond to a notice of infraction. Any person charged with a civil infraction under the provisions of CCC 10.25.040 shall respond to the notice of infraction in the manner set forth in Chapter 7.80 RCW and Chapter 2.06 CCC.

D. Any violation of the provisions of CCC 10.25.040 is both a civil infraction and a public nuisance, unless otherwise stated, and is subject to enforcement action under this chapter as well as any other means provided by the law. Neither an adjudication that a person has committed an infraction, nor payment of any penalty, shall relieve the violator from compliance with the provisions of CCC 10.25.040 violated.

E. Each act herein prohibited of continuing nature shall be considered a separate offense. [Ord. 12-150, § 9, 11-6-12.]

10.25.080 Violation – Misdemeanor.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, any violation of this chapter may be charged as a misdemeanor instead of being processed as an infraction. In determining whether to charge a violation as a misdemeanor the Prosecuting Attorney should consider the number of nuisance noise infractions committed by the defendant during the previous 12 months; the duration, loudness, and intensity of the noise; the number of persons disturbed by the noise; and other relevant factors. [Ord. 12-150, § 10, 11-6-12.]

10.25.090 Severability.

If any section, paragraph, clause or phrase of the ordinance codified in this chapter is declared invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this chapter. [Ord. 12-150, § 11, 11-6-12.]