Cell tower horn blasts neighborhood with noise

Bird deterrent deactivated after News 6 began asking questions

ORLANDO, Fla. – Faye Hobbs has been awaken at 6:30 a.m. nearly every morning for six months by a loud horn echoing through her neighborhood along Lake Formosa.

"You're getting sleep-deprived because you're getting woken up," Hobbs said.  

The horn blast, which has a duration of about five seconds, could then be heard intermittently through the early evening.

"I feel like I'm in Cape Canaveral and a cruise ship is coming in. That's how loud it is," Louis Gonzalez said.

Sean Mallon said the sound causes major disruption.

"(It's like) a foghorn. Where's the fog?" Mallon asked jokingly.  "You have to literally stop talking when that horn goes off. You can't hear."

The horn was being used to deter ospreys from building nests on a nearby cellphone tower, according to Crown Castle, the company that owns and operates the cellular equipment.

The tower is scheduled to be demolished in early March and relocated as part of the construction of an apartment building on the same property.

Under federal law, nests of certain migratory birds like ospreys cannot be removed if they contain eggs or chicks.

Airports, agriculture facilities and industrial sites occasionally use loud noises, sometimes called "sonic nets," to make the area unwelcoming to birds.

But people living in the residential community adjacent to the cellphone tower claim the bird deterrent is also making their neighborhood unwelcoming.

"It's really very irritating and stressful," said Hobbs, who contacted News 6 when the loud noises resumed after about a week of unexplained silence.

According to a city of Orlando spokesperson, the horn does not violate the city's noise ordinance.

Under the city code, a noise louder than a prescribed decibel level "may not be exceeded for longer than 8.3 percent of any measurement period" of at least 30 minutes.

"The offending noise would need to be above the city's noise threshold for over two and a half minutes," said city of Orlando public information officer Karyn Barber. "This particular siren does not sustain the noise for that long."

A permit is not required to use a horn to deter osprey from building a nest, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

"However, horn use and other deterrent measures must be done in a non-injurious manner," said FWC spokesperson Jamie Rager.  "If a nest is present, the nest must be inactive, (meaning) it does not contain eggs or flightless chicks."

Hobbs said she and others have complained to the building contractor about the horn, but it is unclear if any residents specifically spoke with Crown Castle representatives.

After News 6 contacted the cellphone tower owner, the company acknowledged the neighbors' concerns and decided to deactivate the horn.

Crown Castle officials said they hope birds will avoid nesting in the tower prior to demolition.

"We don't have any plans to turn it back on, but we are monitoring it every day," said Public Affairs Director Andrea Bradford. 

Hobbs is grateful the company deactivated the noisemaker.

"The horn is out. The neighborhood is quiet. I can sleep," Hobbs said. "And I'm much nicer today, I'm not grouchy."

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