You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor officials respond to construction noise complaints, give ordinance changes initial OK

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor resident Eleanor Linn said she discovered holes in the city's noise ordinance after living next to construction noise 13 hours a day, six days a week for more than a year and a half.

"You can imagine my consternation, being awoken by construction noise on Memorial Day at 7 a.m. when I had planned to spend the holiday enjoying my yard," said Linn, who lives near the new Landmark student apartment high-rise at 601 S. Forest.


The new Landmark student apartment building in the South University district in Ann Arbor.

Melanie Maxwell I

"The developers have noticed that our code does not explicitly state that holidays are to be treated as Sundays," Linn told Ann Arbor City Council members Monday night. "The police could not issue a noise violation and work continued all that day and all of the Fourth of July."

When construction noise went on hours past the permitted time one night, Linn added, a police officer responding to her complaint was reluctant to issue a ticket.

"According to our code, the violation would go to the person doing the work — rather than to the supervisor, the construction company or the developer," Linn said.

Ann Arbor officials said they heard Linn loud and clear. The City Council voted 11-0 at Monday's meeting to give initial approval to changes to the city's noise ordinance to address her concerns, and those changes are expected to receive final approval at second reading on Dec. 3.

Linn gave special thanks to Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, for helping to work through the issue with her. Taylor sponsored the ordinance changes.

Taylor said the changes effectively expand the prohibition on excessive noise from Sundays to legal holidays and provide a way to hold accountable those who are actually directing the noise.

"It strikes me as a modest change, but an important change for folks who are affected by construction noise, which is certainly a disruption to folks' ordinary enjoyment of their homes," Taylor said.

The ordinance changes define legal holidays as New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Veterans' Day and Christmas Day.

The changes also make it clear the ordinance applies to construction managers, foremen, property owners, developers, contractors and subcontractors who direct, order, require, authorize or commission another person to perform the activities causing the noise violation.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Kristen Larcom said the city's noise ordinance has long prohibited construction activity that creates audible noise beyond the project's property line between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. and all day on Sundays. Exceptions exist for homeowners doing work on their own home.

"In recent years, this has become more of an issue particularly in large construction projects where workers have been directed by their superiors to do work that requires the operation of noisy construction machinery at the prohibited times," Larcom wrote in a memo to council.

Larcom acknowledged there is a reluctance to enforce the ordinance against a person who may fear compliance will lead to job loss.

She said the proposed ordinance amendment makes clear that, while the worker still could be charged for a noise violation under those circumstances, the persons under whose authority the work is being performed can be held responsible instead.

"As with the current ordinance, the ordinance amendment does not prohibit construction activity," she noted. "Rather, it prohibits the creation of noise from construction work that disturbs the public peace and quiet at times when it is reasonable to expect no such disturbance."

Related story: Ongoing construction at Ann Arbor's Landmark high-rise frustrates tenants

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

I do not understand why noise is allowed until 8 pm. Construction has its place, but people need a semi-normal life, and a year or two of noise from 5-8 pm, after work, is really too much. If we are going to change the ordinance, let us to it right.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

These people are obviously not city dwellers. I'd suggest staying away from cities like New York.

Linda Peck

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

It is a good thing and I hope it will work and the police will not shy from writing the citations.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Oh my God somebody is using a Powertool on the fourth of July!!! How am I supposed to enjoy the peaceful sound of every moron setting off legal fireworks?

Andy Price

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Good for her! This is how democracy is supposed to work.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

They've changed the noise ordinance. Hooray. Good luck getting a police officer to the scene to issue the ticket, since the city council doesn't give them the budget to have more a than a token force on duty at any given time.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.

And just what would a 'token' force consist of?


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

I agree that noise is a huge problem in Ann Arbor, and the University claims it is not bound by the City Ordinances, whether they relate to noise or setbacks or street closings. Those that are subject to the city's ordinances often ignore the noise provisions because the city seldom enforces them. There are noise provisions relating to vehicular and non-vehicular noise which need to be enforced. Restaurants and other businesses which blast noise into the street should be ticketed.

Dave Bass

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Rubber hammers!??

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

@T: The Ashley Terrace construction site was across the street from my residence. The contractor who rented the Huey Chopper later informed me he did it to save money since a crane was more expensive and the chopper was cheaper if you rented it Sunday morning! Of course it was...!

Basic Bob

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Veterans Day is not a real holiday for most working people. No more than King's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, or Columbus Day. Forget the construction companies - think of the tradesmen who will need to work Saturday or give up 20% of their weekly pay.

Robert Granville

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

This doesn't prevent all construction work.... just the excessively noisy variety.

Ron Granger

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

What is the actual penalty? Does it have any teeth? From a business perspective, paying a fine of few hundred dollars a day would be insignificant. Often, they are already paying thousands of dollars per hour to rent equipment. Many would choose to accept those fines to meet deadlines, etc. It needs to have teeth.

Robert Granville

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Oh it has teeth. It's not always a civil infraction the second time around. I've seen noise violations go down as misdemeanors with a $500 fine.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Maybe the police didn't want to issue a ticket because you live 5 blocks away from the construction site. Or maybe the city told the contractor to use a helicopter early on a Sunday when the downtown area was least busy. Sometimes you have to consider things outside your little world. We all deal with construction everyday. I hope the city has the forsight to accept a little temporary inconvenience for the stream of revenue it will receive from the South Forest project and every other private construction project.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

Maybe you shouldn't speculate. Residents living on Forest Court are immediately adjacent to this building.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

I gotta tell you that my son lives in an apartment complex near the VA hospital and he has had a terrible time for the last two years with the non-stop, constant construction noise at the VA. Because the VA is a federal property, the city police won't touch them regarding noise violations on Sundays, for example. My son tells me that the noise has decreased in the last month since they are completing the project, but the last two years have been miserable for him. Had he known this was coming in 2010 when he moved in, he would rented in a different area of the city. When residential areas are impacted by huge commercial construction projects, it is very different than living next door to someone who is remodeling their garage. These projects involve massive equipment, dirt blowing around, and constant noise. Ms Linn has a small victory, but the city needs to be more aggressive with putting strict ordinances in place for construction noise, and then ENFORCING the ordinances rather than looking for loopholes.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Thank you for your understanding and support of our Veterans.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Kudos for acting on this very serious quality of life problem for downtown residents! In my experience our police would never issue a citation to workers doing even the most outrageous things. Hopefully, that will now change under new police leadership armed with a new and improved anti-noise ordinance. Over the past 12 years that I've lived downtown, no tickets were issued in the past despite filing formal police complaints even for: A Huey Chopper delivering air conditioner units to the roof of the Key Building from 5am to 9am Sunday morning. It was so loud inside my home with all windows and doors shut that my teeth actually vibrated and rattled. Routinely firing up jack hammers and massive construction equipment at Freed Group's Ashley Terrace building site at 5am, waking my wife trying to sleep having just come home from working the midnight shift at her hospital ER. Rug cleaning at 1:30am so loud you can't hear the police talking to you on the telephone. Ongoing daily violation of the noise ordinance by National City Bank's roof top air conditioner units whoch was bothering our neighbors. In this case the police wouldn't even investigate and informed them they don't even own a decimeter to measure the noise levels. Hopefully that has since changed.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

I believe the timing of the AC installation is such because the building has to be unoccupied at the time for safety reasons.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Holy drama queen, I think your pc diaper is a little tight. Next time the police see your number on caller ID they should send a bicylcle officer right away. Didn't Bugs Bunny make them build a highway around his rabbit hole? It sounds familiar but thats only in cartoons. I'm suprised that an officer would leave the station without a badge, gun, handcuffs and his trusty decimeter.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

@ez12c: It is not ethical to knowingly violate the law. Just because you are following orders does not make it right if it's wrong. I would hope such a man would model ethical behavior for his children, and do the right thing, so they too grow up as moral people, who like what the see when they wake up and look in the mirror in the morning.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

This is one of the issues living downtown. There is no excuse for delivering air conditioner units via a helicopter at 5 am on a Sunday. Do it on a weekday and don't start before 7 am. No construction site should be allowed to start using jack hammers at 5 am, nor should commercial rug cleaning be allowed at 1:30 am. The worse part is the lack of action by the police in all of these situations. Unless the city starts taking action, there will be fewer residents living downtown. Of course, the city probably believes that most of the downtown residents are students, and they believe that the students don't care or complain about these things as much as older, professionals living in the downtown areas. Unfortunately, that is probably accurate. If all downtown residents filed complaints for construction noise, the city would likely have far more complaints to deal with.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

If said man is working for a company that requires him to work on Memorial Day, The 4th and Labor day then this is the least of his problems!


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

So a man is doing his job, putting food on his family's table and HE deserves a citation. Of course he could always quit his job; right???


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

I truly feel for that woman! I thought my situation was bad---and it WAS (I think it's over but not sure) --but hers was way worse! I have been listening to the people in the condo next door sand their floors, with very loud electric sanders, for months. Although not daily, it's been at random times and on weekends. I've had to leave my house several times when I wouldn't have otherwise. I tried to find some kind of ordinance that would protect me, but failed.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Anyone who would build in OZ , unless of course its a city sponsored project which have their own rules, is crazy..if these people had been in charge 150 years ago this would still be farmland.. just watch a historic comission metting some time ....entertaining idiots....


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Except for the dozens of companies that are currently working in A2. Feel free to keep your company out of A2, more work for me and my crew, we know how to follow rules. We learned in kindergarten how to get along and play well with others, including being respectful of neighbors.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 2 p.m.

If a company can't make a go of it without working on said Holiday's then TOO bad! There are bigger reasons to not build in Ann Arbor than this.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

I've been saying it for years. Just like the imbedded hatred of the University, it's astonishing...without UofM, this would be an unknown corner in SE Michigan.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 11:11 a.m.

Amazing that this is just coming up now, never before.