Citizens comment on proposed nuisance law

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2009

‘How loud is too loud?’ was the question a group of citizens were asking Decatur County commissioners Tuesday night as they continue to revise their proposed nuisance ordinance.

A larger-than-normal crowd of about 60 people, a many of them local motorcycling enthusiasts, attended Tuesday’s meeting to voice their concerns about the proposed ordinance, which aims to protect residents in unincorporated areas from being exposed to excessively loud noise, litter, eyesores and health hazards.

Roy Reynolds, founder of Bainbridge Bikefest—an annual music and motorcycling festival which raises money for charity—spoke and presented commissioners with a letter. In general, he asked how exactly an activity would be judged to be a nuisance, as different things could bother different people, a belief others who spoke on the issue

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Reynolds asked for clarification on the draft ordinance’s stated prohibition on the use of sirens, except by emergency response vehicles.

“I make a living installing alarm systems,” Reynolds said. “Does that mean I could no longer install outdoor sirens?”

County Administrator Tom Patton said the ordinance could be revised to allow for residential alarm systems.

The larger issue for Reynolds and the other bikers who spoke Tuesday night was that noises which could be considered nuisances in violation of the proposed included “The use or operation of a motorcycle that creates noise and/or dust to the level that disturbs persons in the vicinity thereof.”

Reynolds said he did not believe Bikefest, which attracts thousands of people to Decatur County for about a week every Fall, could take place without bikers creating some noise and dust. Board of Commissioners Chairman Palmer Rich assured Reynolds that the intent of the ordinance was not to shut down BikeFest or any industry.

Others who spoke Tuesday asked why only motorcycles, and not also potential nuisances from all-terrain vehicles, performance-tuned cars and semi-trailer trucks were not specifically covered in the ordinance.

Victor Strickland, a Sheriff’s deputy who spoke as a private citizen, asked about the proposed ban on discharging of firearms in residential areas except by on-duty law enforcement. Strickland said he and his children would like to continue to enjoy use of a private shooting range he built on his 21-acre property.

Several citizens, including Zane Wise, asked commissioners to be more specific about how decibel level and physical distance would factor into whether something could be declared a nuisance.

County commissioners plan to hold more hearings on the proposed ordinance. They canceled their Feb. 10 meeting, so the next chance for citizens to comment will be Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.