Doña Ana County approves first-ever noise ordinance

Board of County Commissioners passed law unanimously

POSTED: 08:52 PM MST Dec 11, 2012    UPDATED: 08:02 PM MST Jan 14, 2014 
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

For years residents in unincorporated areas of Doña Ana County have complained about noisy neighbors. Soon, sheriff's deputies will be able to do something about it.

The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the county's first noise ordinance on Tuesday.

Soon dogs could get their owners fined. People playing loud music could have to pay up. Even residents doing loud construction at night could get in trouble.

Commissioners said residents have been asking for a law like this for years.

"We get more complaints about noise and noise violations than we really do about anything else: flood, roads, any other comment we get," Board Chairwoman Karen Perez told ABC-7.

"The people that call you to talk about this, it really hurts their quality of life. It hurts their ability to sleep. It really is something we need to address," said County Commissioner Scott Krahling.

The ordinance will cover a wide range of noise violations.

"It sounds like something very innocent, like an ice cream truck or people who have parties in their homes, they don't have any intention of bothering their neighbors, but the Sheriff's Office had no ability to go out there and really have something in their hands to say, 'Look, you're bugging your neighbors,'" Perez said.

The new ordinance sets the maximum noise level during nighttime hours to 50 decibels for residential areas, 60 decibels for commercial/office areas, and 70 decibels for industrial areas.

The ordinance defines nighttime hours as between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. on weekends.

"The noise levels will be measured with an actual device so it doesn't put the officer out there in the field trying to negotiate between neighbors of what's too loud? What's not loud?" Perez said.

The board fielded complaints from several residents opposed to the ordinance. Those residents argued they lived in unincorporated areas to get away from all the rules.

"I think it will be reasonable with a deadline around 10 or so and cut the party off or whatever noise they're making, I'm for it," said Don Montoya, a resident of Mesquite, N.M.

County commissioners hope the ordinance will bring rural areas some much-needed peace and quiet.

"I think we're going to see a big difference with people saying, 'You know, maybe it isn't reasonable for me to have this noise on after midnight,'" Perez said.

On the first offense, violators will be fined a minimum of $100. After the third offense, the fine goes up to $300.

Perez said the county will try the ordinance for a year. Then the board will collect input from the public and Sheriff's Office and make any necessary changes.

The ordinance will take effect 30 days after it is filed with the County Clerk's Office. Commissioners expect that will be sometime next month.