Complaints about noisy neighbors in Lumpkin County did not go unheard by the Board of Commissioners, who debated the idea of creating a noise ordinance for the county.
However at the end of the day, the proposal was once again given the silent treatment.
The Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners agreed to strike the proposed noise ordinance restricting the use of sound amplifying equipment from the regular meeting agenda during the board’s December Work Session.
The proposed noise ordinance would’ve restricted the use of outdoor sound amplifying equipment at night in hopes of encouraging more courteous behavior from noisy neighbors, specifically outdoor event venues, with the ordinance being enforced by the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office.
“So I can tell you how we got here...all of my Monday night phone calls are stemmed from complaints around event venues,” Chairman Chris Dockery told his fellow Commissioners. “...In my conversation with one of the managers of the event venue, I told him, I said ‘You have to be considerate of these neighbors’ and he said ‘Give me something in writing that I can work with.’ He said ‘I would love for you to give me an ordinance, then I have something to hang my hat on.’ And I’m ok with that. So that’s where this use of sound amplifying equipment idea came from.”
The idea of a narrow noise ordinance targeting only one specific type of nuisance noise was problematic for some of the other commissioners.
“I’m certainly not opposed to an amplified noise ordinance,” District 4 Commissioner Jeff Moran said at the work session. “What I don’t want to do is have to go about ordinances one sound at a time. In the over two years I’ve been here, I’ve only received two amplified noise complaints. … But I have had a lot of complaints on other things such as the discharging of firearms, dogs barking, fireworks, dirt bikes, blowing up Tannerite, loud parties at Airbnb’s. I’ve even gotten more complaints than amplified noise about a cannon of all things...so if you pass this ordinance, more requests keep coming in until you address all nuisance noise.”
THE FIRST DOMINO
The hours of restriction in the proposed ordinance were from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, which as District 1 Commissioner David Miller later pointed out, is more restrictive than the noise ordinance for the city.
“It strikes me as being a little odd that the county is being more restrictive than an incorporated city with their particular ordinances,” said Miller. “So I think we need to noodle this thing through a little bit more and tighten it up, if indeed we decide to proceed down this path.”
District 2 Commissioner Bobby Mayfield agreed that a more comprehensive ordinance would be more beneficial if the board decided a noise ordinance was necessary.
“I agree with Commissioner Moran,” Mayfield said. “I don’t want to get us in a situation where we have to have three, four five, 10, 17 different ordinances for every type of sound you can imagine.”
District 3 Commissioner Rhett Stringer also said he saw the ordinance as originally proposed as just the tip of the iceberg, but didn’t want to jump on board with a full-fledged noise ordinance.
“I guess Jeff kind of proved my point but I’m on the other end of the spectrum,” Stringer said. “To me, if you do one, you’re just flicking the first domino and we’ll be in here doing these one-time permits.”
The proposed ordinance makes provisions for annual one-time event exceptions. Stringer feels like this defeats the purpose of the ordinance.
“To me, after the first one-time permit is done, you don’t have a noise ordinance,” he said.
Dockery made it clear that while he was the one to bring up the sound amplifying ordinance, he would not support an all-encompassing noise ordinance.
“This was a very simplified attempt to address a very specific issue,” he said. “The biggest complaint that I hear is the use of sound amplifying equipment while people are trying to sleep around these event venues. So this was very specifically targeted to address those issues and if the board wants to consider a full blown noise ordinance, then the board certainly has that prerogative, but I can tell you for one, that I never have nor will I ever support it.”
Mayfield, Moran and Stringer all stayed on their original position that a noise ordinance only aimed at one specific issue would only open the door for future noise ordinances.
“The current issue on High Ridge Lane, which I’m intimately familiar with, is I think it’s one of our beloved cadets has got a truck that just makes a lot of racket,” Mayfield said. “I know what time his formation is [because] he tears through there every morning. Fortunately for me I’m already up, but all the dogs in the neighborhood aren’t until he goes through and they all holler goodbye...That’ll be the next thing to come up on our plate because we got the dog thing, we got the guy that’s blowing up the Tannerite, we got Billy Bob over here shooting his gun at two in the morning to celebrate a soccer game victory or something. I just don’t like the idea of just one at a time.”
Dockery maintained that a noise ordinance governing all noise is not right for the culture of Lumpkin County.
“When you move to rural north Georgia, you’re going to expect to smell manure, you’re going to expect to hear gunshots, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “You know what? If you live on a dirt road you can expect dust. I mean that’s living in rural north Georgia.”
The chairman seemed especially concerned with attempting to police sounds pertaining to hunting after dark, as an ordinance that limited such a popular practice would likely not go over well.
“When you talk about a barking dog, there are people that hunt at night and their dogs bark,” he said. “There are people that shoot raccoons at night and they shoot multiple times. You’re talking about gunshots, one shot at 6 o’clock in the morning, if you’re talking about sound, you shoot one time, that’s just as annoying to some people as somebody doing rapid fire with a semi-automatic weapon. How do you define? I mean a gunshot is a gunshot...Do you exempt hunting dogs? But I certainly would hate to know that we live in Lumpkin County and people can’t coon hunt anymore because their dogs are going to interfere with somebody’s sleep.”
Dockery also said that many of the noises would be nearly impossible to police, adding another obstacle to the situation.
“I think the other concern with that is how do you enforce it?” he said. “If somebody blows off Tannerite...how do you find that person? What’s the sheriff going to do? How [many] man hours are you going to put into something that made a nuisance for less than three seconds with a sound...So when you’re talking about a full-blown noise ordinance, I just can’t be in support of that because I don’t know how you would enforce it...If you can’t be all inclusive just like you said, then maybe the best thing to do is just not consider an ordinance.”
The board all agreed to strike the proposal from the Dec. 15 regular meeting agenda following the discussion.
“We’ll just strike this from the agenda and if there’s a commissioner that has a desire to pick it up at a later date then we will act accordingly,” Dockery said.