Eleanor Revelle

Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted Monday night to send noise ordinance changes proposed by Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) to the full City Council for approval.

But Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said he wants the police department to provide a demonstration of what the new 55-decibel noise limit actually sounds like in the real world and of the tools the department would use to assess whether sounds actually exceed the limit.

Bobby Burns.

Burns said he was concerned about how the equipment police use would distinguish, for example, between cars driving by and the noise that was the source of the complaint.

The approval vote came after the committee adopted one additional amendment to the ordinance — to require that organizers of special events approved by the city also get a separate permit for loudspeaker use.

The proposed changes drop a vague provision in the existing ordinance that bars “any loud” noise that “annoys a reasonable person.”

Instead, it would bar loudspeakers and similar devices that produce a sound that exceeds 55 decibels at a distance of 750 feet from the property line of the premises from which the sound is being generated.

It further requires that persons wishing to use a loudspeaker outdoors get a permit from the city and bars issuance of a permit for locations within 150 feet of residentially-zoned property.

That would effectively ban outdoor use of loudspeakers in residential neighborhoods.

However the ordinance exempts from the 150-foot rule organizations that have obtained a special event permit from the city.

And educational institutions are both exempt from the 150-foot rule and the requirement of getting a city permit.

The ordinance also bars loudspeaker use between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays and between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekends.

Barbara Wallace.

During pubic comment, Barbara Wallace, who said she lives across the street from the city’s Robert Crown Center athletic fields, raised concerns about the use of amplifiers there — saying some houses are less than 100 feet from the fields and the noise levels are frequently above the limits.

“Most of the time the sound is welcome,” Wallace said, “but we’d like a break from the noise” — suggesting that lights on the fields should be turned off at 9 p.m. when they now are often on as late as 11 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. 55 decibles is how loud a coffee machine is. This is a crazy low level of acceptable noise.

  2. What does “at 750 feet” mean? I’m less than 750 from the neighbours, if I hear them or they hear me at louder than 55, is that breaking the ordinance? Or can it be as loud as wanted *within* 750 feet and becomes a problem at 751? Thanks!

  3. The rules for loud noises and the permit process has been in effect for many years. This does not address loud beer bong games with accompanying loud “music” in neighborhoods in the Ist, 7th and E 5th wards.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *