Sandy Springs is making after-hour construction noise variances more complicated and expensive to get, and limiting them to five per project.
Noise variances allow construction to occur outside of the city’s normally approved hours and days. Those standard hours are 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays and 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, with no Sunday or holiday hours.
Under the old rules, contractors could essentially have unlimited noise variances for a one-time $250 fee, due to “ambiguous” code language, Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert told City Council Feb. 7.
“It’s become a matter of convenience, and it’s inconveniencing some of our residential areas,” Tolbert said.
The new rule allows city staff to issue up to two variance permits for a $250 fee each time. A contractor can then go to the city’s Board of Appeals to request up to three more variances for a $500 fee each time.
The new rule drew some questions about whether it is too restrictive—or not restrictive enough.
Councilmember Tibby DeJulio wondered whether the five-variance limit could limit the ability to speed up road projects, where traffic tie-ups might bother neighbors more than sound.
“I would hate to open that door,” Tolbert replied, noting that sound impacts can be unpredictable.
Resident Tochie Blad noted that the new rule explicitly allows more variances than before and doesn’t clarify the confusions of multiple contractors working on the same project. She said that with the new rule, “basically, you’re creating more exceptions to the rule, and it makes it harder to enforce…Tonight, I think ‘Sleepless in Sandy Springs’ could be our new tagline.”
“I think this is a good balance in public policy,” said Mayor Rusty Paul, adding that the council can tweak the rule further if construction noise remains a problem.