Commission discusses possible nuisance law
The County Commissioners will look at noise and nuisance laws in neighboring counties and talk amongst themselves about whether to move forward on drafting such an ordinance. They will not be open to public discussion on the issue at this time. A public hearing would be held before any such ordinance would be approved.
Residents from Spruce Pine Hollow and other areas in Morgan County attended the February 9 County Commission meeting. They asked if the county could do something about issues like non-stop barking dogs, excessively loud music coming from distant lots and loud dirt bikes that ride back and forth for hours that sometimes have no mufflers.
Spruce Pine Hollow residents had first approached the County Commission about the problem in 2002. Last June, residents Marvin Miller and Janie Fox asked the county to enact noise and nuisance laws so local police could take action.
Fox said then that she had to place her sick mother in a nursing home instead of caring for her at home because of the continuous noise and dust from dirt bikes and ATVs on their subdivision roads. Her husband has a lung condition and they must keep their doors and windows closed all the time to keep out the dust, she said.
Commissioner Glen Stotler said last June that a public hearing on the issue could be considered. Commissioner Tommy Swaim also acknowledged that the time may have come for some noise laws.
Swaim noted at the February 9 Commission meeting that he had met with the sheriff and a few others and that they had been progressing on the issue until the courthouse burned down. The courthouse has been what the County Commission has been mostly dealing with since then, residents were told.
At the February 9 County Commission meeting, Miller provided documents showing the history of their complaints, copies of nuisance laws and barking dog ordinances from neighboring counties and letters from residents and the president of their Property Owners Association pleading for help with the issues.
Also included in Miller's handout was a
copy of Senate Bill No. 3 that was passed in March, 2002. The bill provides counties with
the authority to enact ordinances and other
necessary actions to eliminate hazards to public health and safety or to halt anything that they determine to be a public nuisance. The bill also gives commissions the right to set misdemeanor penalties.
Miller wanted the Morgan County Commission to go on record as being for or against a noise and nuisance ordinance.
Noise and safety issues
Miller spoke of other noise and safety issues such as guns firing continuously at unsafe distances, open burning during very dry seasons and multiple junk cars.
The loud music comes from lots that are three to four lots away where each lot is five acres in size, said Miller. The music can get loud enough to rattle the dishes on your table and lasts for two to three days almost non-stop, he said.
Miller noted that the dirt bikes sold now don't make much noise unless they're tampered with. While many riders speed, drive unsafely and tear up the roads, other riders are considerate. Residents hoped for a happy medium where they didn't have to listen to the roar of motors for hours on end.
Deed of property important
David Squier, who bought land on Clone Run Road, believed the deed of property was very important. Homeowners agreed to covenants and restrictions when they first bought property, he said. Some later didn't abide by them.
People use their roads to race around on weekends and kids use them through the week. They wear no helmets and "do as they please," he said.
Commissioner Stotler told Squier that they had no authority to enforce the covenants in their subdivision and recommended civil action. Squier said they had already taken that route.
"Some feel it's my property and I'll do anything I want to do," said Miller.
At times, residents are feeling like prisoners in their own homes, said Miller in an earlier statement.
Days filled with non-stop barking, vibrating noise and roaring motors for hours on end "are not little inconveniences, but major infringements on our way of life. There are times you think you just can't stand it anymore," said Miller.
Where does it stop?
Stotler was advised that some areas where these problems were occurring were not located in subdivisions. Residents wanted to know where do we go from here and where does it stop?
"The noise drives you crazy. Something needs to be done," said Janice Kyne, who lives behind the sand mines. Kyne talked of the noise from dirt bikes and ATVs.
Zane Everett from Clearview Drive said he had to buy an air conditioner to try to drown out the noise of guns going off all the time at a nearby target range, dogs barking 24 hours a day and dirt bikes zooming by.
"Can't we do something about the noise?" he asked.
Janie Fox spoke of music that blared 12-14 hours a day where you can hear every word. Responsible pet owners deal with their dogs barking constantly, said Fox. She brings her dogs inside if they are carrying on.
"People have lost their sense of decency," said Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson.
Enforcement an issue
The ATV ordinance resolved the problem on the main roads, said Stotler. Most ceased riding ATVs on applicable roads after the law was enacted, he said. Hutchinson noted how the ATV ordinance didn't always work on secondary roads. She felt they needed to find better ways to enforce it.
Stotler noted that the County Commission was still prepared to do something about the noise and nuisance issues. Swaim supported some action, but felt they had to draw the line.
Former Commissioner Bob Ford was at the meeting to speak about the Workforce Investment Board. Ford commented that it was easy to create an ordinance. The County Commission needed to ask how they were going to enforce it and how they were going to pay for it, he noted. Sheriff's deputies are run pretty ragged with other calls, said Ford.
The sheriff was supportive of their concerns, said Miller. The group understood that deputies would respond to high priority calls first and nuisance calls afterwards.