County taking aim at annoyances

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Decatur County commissioners will soon consider an ordinance related to loud noise, litter, eyesore properties and health hazards.

On Tuesday, members of the County Planning Board reviewed the latest draft of the nuisance ordinance, which was originally proposed to them in April 2008. After making a few revisions, the board unanimously approved sending it on to county commissioners for their consideration.

The proposed nuisance ordinance for unincorporated Decatur County has been in development since early 2008 and originally included animal control rules, which county commissioners later adopted separately last October. Last year, the proposed ordinance drew criticism from local farmers, who were concerned some of the rules could hurt agricultural business. The latest draft refers to Georgia law that exempts agricultural, forest lands and related facilities from certain provisions.

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The ordinance, prepared by County Planning Director Paul Soudi, defines nuisances as “anything that causes hurt, inconvenience, or damage to another.” However, the nuisance “shall not be fanciful” and must be something that members of the general public object to.

Soudi and Planning Board members discussed their belief that the rights of existing agricultural uses should take precedence over complaints from anyone who might construct a home next to a farm.

Nuisances outlined

Most of the proposed ordinance is targeted toward nuisances occurring in residential areas.

Excepting agricultural activities, the rules would prohibit: loud or prolonged noises; abandoned vehicles; very tall grass and weeds; accumulation of trash, construction debris and other abandoned materials; obnoxious odors, pollution of any public body of water by waste; and illegal dumping of waste, human or otherwise; and littering.

Littering rules would not apply to the transportation of organic debris to and from agricultural properties and facilities, such as hauling of cotton and hay bales, because such practices are already governed by state law. Private property owners would be required to remove animal carcasses that present a nuisance to others.

Among the loud noises that would be considered nuisances in residential areas are animals that make continuous noises, construction, excavation or demolition between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and excessively loud noise from cars and vehicles.

Under the new rules, it would also be illegal to bury garbage or burn garbage in a barrel or any container used by the county for residential trash pickup, a service it does not currently provide.

It would also be illegal for any person, except on-duty law enforcement officers, to shoot any firearm or air rifle within residential areas except as authorized by state law.

People found guilty of violating the ordinance could be subject to fines or an appearance in Magistrate Court. The ordinance would be enforced by the county code enforcement officer and Sheriff’s deputies.