FREEPORT — The Town Council is considering amendments to the “Loitering, Curfew & Noise” ordinance that would more than double fines for noise violations.
According to Town Manager Peter Joseph, the amendments are in response to noise complaints about homes, mostly in in densely populated residential zones, that are rented as short-term rentals.
He said the town has received noise complaints from neighbors of homes near the water on Lower Flying Point Road, with repeated complaints from at least three residents about properties being used for bachelor parties, weekend getaways and other events.
The first violation in a one-year period would be punishable by fines between $250 and $500. Each additional violation within the year would result in a fine of at least double the amount of the previous fine.
Any subsequent violations beyond three within a one-year period would constitute a nuisance, subject to “injunctive relief,” or requested court-action.
“The changes aim to sort of add teeth to the ordinance,” Joseph said.
In considering the amendment, the council is hoping to address concerns with short-term rentals without creating an ordinance to regulate them.
A police officer would issue the summons, Joseph said, but it would be up to a judge to decide what the appropriate fine would be based on the circumstances of the violation and the ordinance, which under existing rules limits fines for excessive noise to $100.
A public hearing will be held on April 3 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed amendments. Any amendments adopted wouldn’t change what characterizes prohibited noise, but rather how those in violation should be penalized.
According to Joseph, the amended ordinance allows the town to fine property owners, as well as the individual or group responsible for the noise.
“A lot of times, these people are coming for a night or two then leaving,” he said.
The ordinance goes on to state that each day a noise violation is reported will be considered a separate violation and may be punished separately.
The town’s “Loitering, Curfew & Noise” ordinance was originally adopted at Town Meeting in March 1962.
The ordinance prohibits making, continuing, or causing any “loud, profane, boisterous, unnecessary, or unusual noises that shall either annoy, disturb, injure, or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of others.”
If the amendments are approved, the ordinance would maintain a fine of no more than $100 for those violating the loitering and curfew portions, but would increase the penalty for those violating noise regulations.
A group of local innkeepers recently asked the council to to consider another ordinance, similar to one recently adopted in South Portland, that would increase the standards property owners must meet to rent out their homes for short stays.
Since then, the innkeepers have been working on tweaking South Portland’s ordinance before presenting it to the council.
On March 20, Robin Baron, owner of the James Place Inn on Holbrook Street, said the group is still working on their draft, but has made “great progress” and hopes to discuss it with the council soon.
Joseph said the council is aware of concerns regarding short-term rentals in town, but at this point is not considering crafting an amendment to regulate them.
“Right now, the biggest single issue is noise complaints,” Joseph said. “… This is the first step.”