If a proposed noise ordinance is approved as written, make sure your neighbor is fine with you cutting your grass or playing basketball with your kids outside.
Last Thursday, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted to make changes to a proposed ordinance designed to limit excessive noise in the county.
With that vote, any noise that is “plainly audible” within a 100 feet radius would be a violation. The board also placed noise limits during daytime hours.
As drafted, violations would be handled as civil issues and prosecuted in magistrate court, with fines not exceeding $1,000 per violation.
Early Monday morning, District 2 Commissioner James Swafford said the board made a serious mistake.
“I lost a lot of sleep this weekend thinking about this, and I’m second guessing what we’ve done as a board,” he said. “I’m glad we’re taking more time to look at it.”
District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon said the proposal is the toughest and most restrictive noise ordinance he has seen for a county of Dawson’s size.
“When you try to legislate on impulse from the bench, you drive in a ditch. That’s what happened to us,” Pichon said.
The board has scheduled a third public hearing on the proposed ordinance, which was drafted at the urging of the board by the county’s code enforcement division late last year after several complaints involving excessive noise from ATVs.
Code enforcement officers worked with the county attorney to draft the ordinance and the sheriff’s office, who is charged with enforcement.
The original draft 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.
Almost one dozen citizens spoke in favor of a noise ordinance that includes limits to noise during daylight hours. Many comments focused on noisy neighbors, barking dogs and un-muffled ATVs.
“Neighbors have dogs that bark 24-7. Not all neighbors are good neighbors. We need good fences,” said Tony Davida, who lives in the heavily populated area of Kilough Church Road.
Last week’s vote addresses excessive noise anytime, day or night.
Pichon said Dawson County’s rural tapestry, with pockets of more dense growth, is not suited for such an ordinance. “Our county is still quite rural. Look at our nine peer group counties, the ones nearby that are similar in size and population, they don’t have noise ordinances,” he said.
Pichon also reviewed the larger neighbors, which, he said, have ordinances that focus on quiet hours. If the counties have decibel levels in place to monitor noise, they are restricted to particular industrial areas such as quarries and mining.
“We’d be more restrictive than the bigger counties, and that’s a pretty big step,” said Pichon.
Dawson County Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Tony Wooten said the department is concerned.
“We hope there is a definate definition of what a nuisance is, because we don’t want to trample citizens rights to protect and enjoy their land,” he said.
A third public hearing is scheduled for May 7 at 6 p.m. during the Dawson County Board of Commissioners regularly scheduled 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.
The board is also scheduled to discuss the noise in Thursday’s work session at 4 p.m. at the Dawsonville Municipal Complex, 415 Hwy. 53 East, Dawsonville.