Tennis ball machines would be relegated to the status of lawn mowers and bulldozers under a noise ordinance tentatively approved in this posh community that once tried to ban men from running topless.

The ordinance approved Tuesday by the Town Council would limit use of the electric servers to the same weekday hours set aside for heavy construction - 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. between Dec. 1 and April 3 and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the remainder of the year. Unlike heavy machinery, however, the council would allow tennis ball machines to be used on weekends.The ball machines were lumped into a category of equipment "that may be obnoxious during certain hours," said town attorney John Randolph.

Town officials had considered banning new ball machines from the island, where the ordinance prohibiting men from topless jogging was struck down in March by an appeals court. The community also was lampooned by Garry Trudeau in his "Doonesbury" comic strip for a law requiring workers to carry identification cards. That law was declared unconstitutional, so the council in March made it voluntary for employers to require workers to have the cards.

Some proponents of the tennis ball machine ordinance also wanted to prohibit their use on weekends.

The proposed regulations would be enforced only if there are complaints from neighbors, town officials said. The maximum fine for a noise violation is $250 a day.

One resident who attended the council meeting questioned why ball machines were singled out and cited driveway basketball games as a greater disturbance to the peace.

"This goes into the delicate area of private recreational uses," Adrian Winterfield said. "I suggest it is unnecessary to include a prohibition against one activity, because if the noise is excessive . . . it can be regulated on that basis."

The council will make its final decision on the ordinance next month.