Noise ordinance: the good, the bad, the ugly

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By Fred Woods

Editor

Who among us has not been annoyed by loud noises emanating from radios in cars on the street, from late-night parties down the street or the neighbor mowing his yard at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning and wished there was a law regulating or prohibiting the activity?

Well, there are noise laws and ordinances – good, bad and ugly. The Lee County Commission, on Oct. 14, in its regular bi-monthly meeting, will consider a draft ordinance that is both bad and ugly.

Noises (sound) can be scientifically measured (in decibels), and, as we all know, sound abates as the distance between source and hearer increases. The Lee County draft ordinance says nothing about measuring sound levels at various distances, relying instead on the judgment of county deputy sheriffs.

This is unacceptable.

I have nothing against deputy sheriffs. In fact, I really like most of the ones I know. But I don’t want them, or the Lee County Ministerial Association, or even my wife telling us what is an unacceptable noise level and what is an acceptable level. Not when there are noise meters and tape measures to tell us non-subjectively.

Over the past several weeks I have looked at a number of noise ordinances on the Internet. Almost all of them mention specific decibel levels (45, 50, 65 decibels) at certain specific distances from source to hearer, when defining prohibited noise levels.

If you have views on this subject, let your commissioner hear from you or come to the meeting next Tuesday night. The work session begins at 4 p.m., and this is when all the real discussion takes place. The official meeting, which begins at 6 p.m., is usually just where the decisions made at the work session get formalized.

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