QUAKERTOWN, Pa. – Quakertown Borough Council reviewed a potential noise ordinance Wednesday night, a reflection of growth downtown that is welcome but might at times be a little too loud.
An ordinance could set an objective standard for sound, solicitor Peter Nelson told the council. The borough's existing nuisance law is enforced at the discretion of police officers after neighbors complain.
"The nuisance ordinance is subjective," he said.
A noise ordinance could set decibel levels for different times of day and days of the week. Police would use sound-metering equipment at a property's boundary line to determine violations. The nuisance law could still be enforced based on judgment.
Borough Manager Scott McElree said the goal would not just be enforcement. Quakertown would try to work with property owners on abating noise problems by installing walls or hedges.
"This is just a framework right now," Councilman Michael Johnson said.
The borough government will go over a more specific proposal during a work session this month or in April. Nelson said the Quakertown Police Department would need equipment and training to enforce noise limits.
Several train enthusiasts attended the meeting to discuss the noise problem. Ed White, treasurer of the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, said his organization meets monthly at the Quakertown Train Station. When the nearby Two Rivers Brewing Tap Room on East Broad Street has bands outside, the loud noise interrupts the meetings.
"The noise comes right through the walls" of the old stone building, White said. That is a problem, particularly because "our membership tends to be on the older spectrum."
White said it's good to see new businesses downtown, but after meeting at the station for 10 years, the noise may force the ARHS to move elsewhere.
The organization, an IRS-registered 501 (c)(3) organization, restores locomotives, publishes a magazine and maintains an archive of railroad history.
The council approved unanimously the final plans for new construction at Quakertown Plaza that will bring a Wendy's fast-food restaurant to West Broad Street. Developer Dan Bleznak said in addition to the free-standing restaurant, two retail spaces will be created on the site of the former Boston Market. He does not have tenants for those storefronts yet.
In other business, Bucks County Commissioner Robert Harvie Jr. addressed the council as part of his visits to all 54 Bucks County municipalities. Harvie took county office in January after serving 16 years as a supervisor in Falls Township.
"My goal is to do as much outreach as possible," Harvie said.
He urged Quakertown to promote resident participation in the census.
In the 2010 Census, "Pennsylvania was next to last in accuracy," Harvie said. "Only Texas under-counted more than we did." When residents are not counted, the region gets short-changed.
"We lost tens of millions in federal funding," he said.
The council discussed Evercor Facility Management's request to get out of the last two years of its lawn-mowing contract. McElree said Evercor's performance at city parks has not been acceptable, and that the company, citing operational problems, has offered 150 trees in return for being released from the deal.
After Councilman L. James Roberts Jr. did some quick internet research on Evercor, President Donald Rosenberger said Quakertown should ask for more trees than offered to let the company out of the contract. The council approved Rahn Lawn and Landscape as the new mowing company, pending resolution of the Evercor contract.
The council also heard from resident James Coll, who noted that Pennsylvania's retail electrical market is deregulated, but Quakertown residents don't have a choice of providers.
Dave Wilsey, chairman of the council's Public Utilities Committee, said the borough is one of just 35 Pennsylvania municipalities that own their electrical grid, buy power wholesale and then sell it to residents.
"It helps us keep taxes low," he said, and the sale of electricity helps Quakertown pay for borough services.
The council also approved spending $99,000 for three new police cars. That does not include equipping the vehicles, but some equipment from old vehicles can be switched to the new ones.