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Constitutional Challenge of Town of Hinesburg Noise Ordinance Denied

In In Re LaBerge NOV, 2016 VT 99, the Supreme Court affirmed a Notice of Violation issued by the Town of Hinesburg Zoning Administration, and previously affirmed by the Environmental Division, for the LaBerge family’s violation of the Town’s noise ordinance.

Issue: This appeal arose out of a dispute between neighbors in Hinesburg relative to the LaBerge family’s use of a motocross track on its property. The adjoining land owner, the Fenwick family, complained that noise from the operation of motorcycles exceeded 80 decibels and was in violation of the Town’s noise ordinance. The Zoning Administration’s Notice of Violation was appealed by the LaBerges to the Development Review Board (“DRB”) which overturned the violation. The Fenwicks appealed the DRB’s decision to the Environmental Division which affirmed the Notice of Violation originally issued by the Town. The LaBerges then appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that: (1) Hinesburg’s noise ordinance is so vague that it violates due process and equal protection; and (2) that the trial court’s conclusion the “limited, sporadic, seasonal use” of their rural property to ride motorcycles was unreasonable and was a clearly erroneous conclusion not supported by evidence.

Holding: The Court upheld the Notice of Violation issued to the LaBerge family. With respect to the merits of the LaBerges’ constitutional challenge, the Court found that the Town’s ordinance was not unreasonably vague. The Court noted that an ordinance which considers the intensity, duration, and frequency of noise is a commonly used metric which has withstood vagueness challenges in several other jurisdictions. The ordinance was, therefore, not unconstitutionally vague on its face. The Court further found that the trial court’s application of the statute was reasonable, and rejected a number of challenges made regarding the admissibility of evidence allowed by the trial court.

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