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Noise Permit/Sound Variance FAQs

Noise Permit and Sound Variance FAQs


The information below contains excerpts from Chapter 6 of the City Code of Mason City: Noise Pollution Control in order to answer the most common questions we get in regards to Noise Permits and Sound Variances. If you do not find your question listed below or to get the complete code please click here. This link will give you the most comprehensive understanding of Noise Pollution Control in Mason City. You may also call the Noise Pollution Control office at (641) 421-3650.



Q.  What is the difference between a Noise Permit and Sound Variance?
  A noise permit should be obtained when you want to hold an event in a park owned or operated by the  city, or when holding an event in a non-residential area. Sound variances should be obtained when holding an event in a residential neighborhood.



Q. Why do I need a noise permit or sound variance?

A.  Except for activities open to the public and for which a permit has been issued by the City, no person shall operate, play or permit the operation or playing of any radio, television, or record player, tape deck or player:  (1) as to create a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary or outdoors within a noise sensitive area, (2) as to create a noise disturbance fifty feet (50')(15m) from the device, when operated in or on a motor vehicle on a public right of way or public space, or in a boat on public waters, (3) as to create noise disturbance to any person other than the operator of the device, when operated by any passenger on a common carrier. 


Sound Equipment, Permit Required:  No person shall use, operate or cause to be used or operated any radio, record player, tape deck or player, loud speaker, amplifier, sound truck or other device for producing, reproducing, or amplifying sounds, hereinafter referred to as “sound equipment”, upon the public streets or in any building or upon any premises, public or private, if the sound there from be plainly audible from any public street or public place within the City, unless said person:  (1) first obtains a permit in accordance with Section 8-6-9 of the Noise Pollution Control Chapter of the City Code of Mason City, (2) complies with the conditions imposed by the permit, including the maximum permitted sound level shown therein; (3) complies with all other applicable provisions of Section 8-6-9 of the Noise Pollution Control Chapter of the City Code of Mason City.



Q.  What is the cost to obtain a noise permit or sound variance?

A.  A separate fee shall be required for each type of activity and permits shall be nontransferable. The permit shall be conspicuously displayed on or immediately adjacent to the sound equipment. 


Noise Permit fees are as follows:  (1) Permits for one day or less are $5.00, (2) Permits for over one day through two weeks are $10.00.


Sound Variance fees are as follows:  (1) Variances for one day through one week are $5.00, (2) Variance for over one week through one year is $25.00, plus $5.00 for each week in excess of the first week, of which the excess fee is refundable upon denial or revocation.



Q. Where do I go to obtain a noise permit or sound variance?
Applications for permits required shall be made in writing to the Chief of Police of Mason City, (78 S Georgia) accompanied by the required permit fee and the following information: (1) Type of permit requested, (2) Name and address of applicant, (3) Purpose for which the sound equipment with be used (i.e., amplified human speech, band, DJ, etc), (4) Location where the sound equipment will be used, (5) Number of days of use and proposed hours of operation of the sound equipment, (6) A general description of the sound equipment, including the license number of any motor vehicle upon which it is to be operated.



Q. How do I know what the permissible sound levels are with a noise permit or sound variance?
The following are the maximum permissible sound levels allowed at or within the real property boundary of a receiving land use (receiving land use is defined as the use or occupancy of the property which receives the transmission of sound):

1. Residential Zone: 7 am – 10 pm has a 60 decibel sound limit.
2. Residential Zone: 10 pm – 7 am has a 50 decibel sound limit.
3. Commercial Zone: At all times has a 65 decibel sound limit.
4. Industrial Zone: At all times has a 75 decibel sound limit.
5. Noise Sensitive Area: At all times has a 55 decibel sound limit.

Most generally for a noise permit or sound variance you will be limited to 60 decibels when measured at the real property boundary of the private residence nearest the sound equipment and measuring not more than 100 decibels at a distance of fifty feet from the sound equipment. Upon your request (and depending on officer availability) an officer can come test the sound levels for you prior to your event to ensure you know the level at which you should be to hold your event within the confines of the maximum decibel levels.



QHow many different types of permits/variances are there?

A.  There are 3 types of Noise Permits:

1.  Type A permit – General.  Sound Equipment permitted under a Type A permit may  be used only in areas of the City zoned for nonresidential use and only between the hours of 9:00 am and 2:00 am the following morning.

2.  Type B permit – Sound Trucks. Sound Equipment permitted under a Type B permit is mounted upon a motor vehicle and intended for use upon City streets provided that the sound equipment emits only music or human speech registering not more than 80 decibels when measured at a distance of one hundred feet from the sound equipment and only in nonresidential areas from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.

3.  Type C permit – Parks.  Sound equipment permitted under a Type C permit may be used only in public parks owned and operated by the City, or public grounds owned and operated by another governmental body, from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm for events authorized and approved by the Park and Recreation Board or other body having jurisdiction over the park or public grounds.


There is only one type of Sound Variance and shall be granted by notice to the applicant containing all necessary conditions, including a time limit on the permitted activity.  The sound variance shall not become effective until all conditions are agreed to by the applicant.  Noncompliance with any condition of the variance shall terminate it and subject the person holding it to the provisions of the Noise Pollution Control Chapter of the City Code of Mason City.

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