Curry County moved a step closer to having a noise ordinance after commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance.
A second reading must be approved before the ordinance will become law.
David Fortman, code enforcement officer for the county, said having an ordinance will give code enforcement another tool to help local residents.
“Code enforcement currently enforces ordinances about barking dogs,” he said. “Let me tell you, people get very, very angry on both sides. We’re in a community and a county that’s gone from rural and agriculture to one that has neighbors close by.”
Having those close neighbors means things done in the past, like starting work early in the morning or finishing late at night, can now be a nuisance.
The ordinance does not allow construction work before 7 a.m. It does have an exemption for the lumber industry. No lawn mowing would be allowed after 8 p.m. and no heavy equipment use or detonation would be allowed after 5 p.m.
“This isn’t going to make everyone happy,” Fortman said. “I think it gives us the tools. What I’m looking for is how do you want it enforced.”
Commissioner Chris Paasch, who spearheaded the effort to create an ordinance for the board of commissioners, said enforcement should start with education.
“I think when we started this conversation, my intent was that we don’t have too much policing,” he said. “A lot of this is subjective. It has to be up to the code enforcement personell. It’s a subjective thing.”
Paasch said he would prefer the county give warnings first, with the option for stronger action of needed.
Fortman said a very small percentage of noise complaints are intentional or repetitive, so education would be appropriate. The small number that are a recurring problem could face fines under the ordinance.
The county began considering an ordinance when a woman came before commissioners and complained about an ongoing problem where she lives. She said the constant thumping of music next door, day and night, has become almost unbearable.
“The woman that came before the board has a chronic problem, and this gives us a tool to deal with it,” Fortman said.
He said a lot of things will go into play when code enforcement is considering whether something is a violation or not. He explained they will consider the volume of the noise, the distance from others, time of day and whether it’s repetitive.
After presenting the ordinance to commissioners, they agreed to move forward with one change. Rather than limit things like lawnmowers at a set time, they asked to change it to one hour before sunset.
Fortman also pointed out the ordinance does include an option to get a permit for the county for special events. The permit would allow noise, such as music, later with approval by the county.
Paasch made a motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance and Vice-Chair John Herzog seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.