Fri08012014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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Noise ordinance nets 34 complaints

King George Supervisors last week received a planned report from Sheriff Steve Dempsey, who talked about 34 noise complaints received since a revised noise ordinance was adopted on June 4. Here’s a review of the current noise ordinance to provide context for review of the facts presented from Dempsey’s report.

ALLOWABLE DECIBEL LEVELS
The ordinance makes it unlawful for anyone to create any noise or sound that exceeds the decibel level of 75 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

It further makes it unlawful for creating noise that exceeds the decibel level of 65 during the nighttime hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Those decibel levels and times apply to most Sundays through Thursdays.

There is an exception for weekend nights. On Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight (12 a.m.), the allowable decibel level is 70 during that two-hour period. That exception for an allowable decibel level of 70 also applies between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. on “nights preceding federal and state-recognized holidays.” The meaning is that it would apply to Thursday nights of holiday weekends, and may also apply to Sunday nights when a holiday falls on a Monday.

ENFORCEMENT IS COMPLAINT-DRIVEN
The ordinance is complaint-driven. Complaints made to the King George Sheriff’s Office result in a visit by an officer to the property owner making the complaint. When an officer responds, a measurement of the noise is made by the use of a decibel meter on the property affected by the noise.

Dempsey also said that the people responsible for the loud noise are asked to quiet down.

The non-emergency phone number of the Sheriff’s Office is: 540-775-2049.

If loud noises are endured and not reported to the Sheriff’s Office, there is no action taken to check the decibel level or log the complaint.

SUMMARY OF NOISE REPORT
Dempsey said that a total of 34 complaints were received during the period of his report, between May 25 and Aug.19.

Thirty of the complaints were about loud music. Of the other four complaints, three reported loud voices and yelling, while one was a complaint about a barking dog.

Dempsey said that a report form is filled out for each complaint. Each officer that responds to a noise complaint fills in the time, date, and location, along with the decibel readings outside and also inside the receiving residence, along with the approximate distance from the source of the loud sound. There is also a space on the form for comments from the officers to describe the noise and an option to provide their opinions.  
~ There were twelve daytime complaints, but none of them reached the level of being a violation of the ordinance, since those noises were under a reading of the currently-allowable 75-decibel maximum for that time period.  

Four of the twelve daytime complaints had readings of over 70 decibels. If the ordinance was changed to a maximum of 70 decibels allowed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., those four complaints could have been chargeable violations.

~ There were three complaints between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. (midnight) that were over 65 decibels, but were not violations.

Dempsey said when his officers responded to the complaints, all 34 of those responsible for the noise turned down the volume. “When we asked, they did comply,” Dempsey stated.

Dempsey noted that the highest reading found at one complaint was 100 decibels. The lowest reading for a complaint was recorded at 35 decibels. Dempsey added, “The average complaint, we found, was between 50 and 59 decibels on our readings.”

Nineteen out of the 34 complaints made were for noise between the hours of 10 p.m. and 12 a.m.

Twelve of the noise complaints were in Fairview Beach, with Dempsey saying that the rest were spread out, from around the entire county.

WRITTEN COMMENTS FROM OFFICERS
Dempsey described a sampling of the comments deputies made when writing up the complaint.
~ An incident at 10:43 p.m. resulted in a decibel reading of 73.6, taken outside. The deputy talking to the complainant outside the home had to speak very loudly, and the noisy music was disruptive to the one-on-one conversation.

~An incident at 11:02 p.m. resulted in a 50.9-decibel reading, inside the home, and the base vibration was rattling things inside the house at that decibel reading.

~An incident at 8:35 p.m. resulted in a decibel reading of 40.1, inside the house, which disrupted television viewing and was creating enough noise that a baby was having a difficult time sleeping.

~ Another incident, reading 69.6 decibels outside the home, was described as enough to disrupt conversation. In the deputy’s opinion, it was “loud” inside the home, at 56.5 decibels, which created an atmosphere where they could not sleep.

~ An outside 68.8-decibel reading was disruptive to conversation between the deputy and the complainant. The same noise resulted in a 51.7-decibel reading inside the home, which that was disruptive to watching television at a reasonable sound level.

Chairman Dale Sisson thanked Dempsey for his report, saying it provided valuable input.

Asked by Cedell Brooks how the new ordinance was working, Dempsey responded, saying, “Well, it’s working. When we approach the person causing the noise they have turned it down. However without complaints, we don’t patrol with a meter looking for noise. If somebody calls and complains, we go to the complaint, we take a reading and go and ask them to turn it down and they have complied.”

Asked by Joe Grzeika how the complaint record compared with those in the past, Dempsey estimated they were receiving about the same number of complaints as previously.

Supervisors asked for another report later this fall, with Grzeika saying that would cover the rest of the summer season, a prime time for noise complaints. Sisson agreed they wanted more reporting and asked for a report in early October that would cover through the end of September. Sisson also said, “What we’ve got to figure out is whether we are at the right decibel level. And I thought Mr. Myruski had some good comments there, as well.”

During the same meeting, Andy Myruski had provided comments earlier, during the public comment period on the topic, suggesting that the nighttime limit between 10 p.m. and midnight be lowered to 65 decibels. He also suggested that the county look into using a different meter to measure low frequency sounds, like those that make the boom-boom sounds that provide more vibration. Myruski said he had seen three different studies that had similar results , indicating that the low frequency sounds are much more detrimental to human health than high frequency sounds.

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