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LAS CRUCES CITY COUNCIL

City council considers changes to noise ordinance, net zero energy use in city buildings

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Changes to the City of Las Cruces noise ordinance could soon be offered to the Las Cruces City Council for consideration.

At its Sept. 13 work session, the council discussed recommendations that came from a preliminary study that was completed in February 2019 by Bohannan Huston, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in engineering, spatial data and advanced technologies that is headquartered in Albuquerque and has an office in Las Cruces. The independent study determined that the city noise ordinance does not mention or define decibel levels, making it difficult to enforce.

The city received 737 noise complaints from March through early September of this year. The primary source of noise complaints in the city is vehicles that have modified exhaust systems or are playing loud music. The second-most noise complaints are for live music; and one to two complaints a month are about noise from Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs).

The study has proposed setting a level of 72 decibels, at a distance of 25 feet from the noise source, as a generally acceptable noise level in commercial and industrial zones during daytime hours; 67 decibels, both day and night, in residential zones, and 67 decibels at night in commercial and industrial zones. However, there was council discussion that noise levels vary throughout the city and the recommended decibel levels in the study might not be suitable in commercial or industrial areas.

There was agreement among council members that a balance in noise levels should be struck. The council also agreed that any amendments to the city’s noise ordinance may be reviewed by policy review committees established by the city.

Also at the meeting, council members discussed the merits of implementing net zero energy use in city buildings. The city’s Sustainability Office presented recommended actions the council could enact to transition to net zero.

Net zero is an effort to meet a building’s or a community’s energy needs through renewable energy and other complementary sustainable practices. The transition to net zero could reduce cost burden, improve health and help achieve goals outlined in the city’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

The recommendations presented to the council included developing either an ordinance or resolution that would require any new construction of city government buildings to utilize net zero policies and practices. The city has already implemented some of those practices, including the use of solar energy and the installation of electric vehicle chargers at some city facilities.

The council also discussed developing all-electric city buildings and possibly incentivizing builders to develop all-electric subdivisions. Some council members and city staff agreed that working toward electrification transition could achieve potential financial savings for low- and moderate-income city residents in the future.

A resolution supporting net zero practices in city buildings likely will be presented soon to council for formal consideration and adoption.