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Public says noise ordinance needs tweaking

POSTED: March 25, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Chickens get out at night, sweeper trucks clean up parking lots after businesses close and on occasion, water pipes burst after dark. All three examples make noise.

  

“I’m in the construction business. I may be out fixing a water leak at three o’ clock in the morning. I’m going to be making noise,” said Jackie Townley, as he asked the Dawson County Board of Commissioners to continue tweaking an ordinance intended to cut down on noise in the county.

  

Townley, who owns several local businesses, said commissioners need to take a broader look at the ordinance being presented and make stipulations to allow for work taking place in the evening and emergencies that could arise.

  

“If you start pouring concrete and you’re not done by 5 p.m., you can’t quit,” he said.

  

Following community input and concern over excessive noise from ATVs, the board late last year directed the county’s code enforcement division to study the complaints and address the issues in a preliminary noise ordinance draft to be presented back to the board.

  

With assistance from the sheriff’s office and the county attorney, Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Irvin drafted an ordinance “to establish regulations regarding the generation of noise which in its nature could adversely effect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Dawson County.”

  

The draft outlines 11 specific prohibitions including limited hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. for loudspeakers and sound amplifiers, construction and demolition, powered motor vehicles, emergency signaling devices and commercial garbage collection, among others.

  

If approved, the ordinance would only support unincorporated Dawson County, which does not include the city of Dawsonville.

  

The board voted last month to send the draft to public hearings, with the first hearing held last Thursday.

  

Sherry Racine, who lives in the county’s War Hill area, asked the board to consider adding wording to the ordinance to address noise in the daytime hours.

  

“The daytime hours are a problem as well,” she said. 

  

Racine and others were also concerned with the use of “plainly audible” as the basis for testing a verifiable complaint.

  

“Plainly audible” is described as sound that can be detected by a person using his or her unaided hearing.

  

As drafted, violations would be handled as civil issues and prosecuted in magistrate court, with fines not exceeding $1,000 per violation. The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and Dawson County Code Enforcement Office would enforce the ordinance.

  

Resident Sue Poynter said a noise ordinance would benefit and protect both residents and the local law enforcement charged with the enforcement of the proposed ordinance.

  

“If we have something very specific on the books with the decibel levels, it takes the personal out of it. It takes out any concern that one citizen is getting away with something because of family connections, friendship or other involvement,” she said. “It makes it very objective.”

  

Dick Scharf, a resident of Big Canoe who worked with a group of residents to evaluate the proposed draft, agrees.

  

“Without a starting point, any evaluation of any complaint becomes subjective and left to the interpreter,” he said. “Without criteria, either the sheriff or the first responder is in an awkward position. Plainly audible reduces the question to, ‘Can I hear it?’”

  

Corrective actions, he added, “... are then based on the answer to that one simple question.”

  

Sheriff Billy Carlisle said his team has reviewed the proposed draft, which he said is enforceable as written. “The way I see it, you start off with something you can enforce, and if it turns out you have to put more teeth into it later, then you do it. But we should see how this works,” he said.

  

A second public hearing is scheduled for April 2 at 6 p.m., during the Dawson County Board of Commissioners regular meeting.

  

If significant changes to the draft result from the public hearings, County Attorney Joey Homans said it would be customary to hold one more public hearing before the board would vote to either approve or deny the ordinance.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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