David Rupkalvis

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How much noise is too much noise?

That’s an interesting question facing law enforcement officials and code enforcement officials pretty much anywhere.

I am writing this because Curry County commissioners took the first formal step toward implementing a noise ordinance last week. To be honest, I have no idea if Coos County has one, but Coos Bay and North Bend do. In fact, almost every city I’ve been to has something in the books.

And every one of those ordinances has some sort of penalty when violations occur, but thankfully few people are ever punished.

The purpose of a noise ordinance is to prevent one person or group from impacting the health and happiness of another. So, in most cases, police or code enforcement will choose to talk to offenders and get them to quiet up before using harsher measures.

I have lived with loud neighbors a few times in my life, and I suspect I’ve had neighbors who thought I was the loud one, but fortunately law enforcement has never been called.

My biggest pest was my immediate neighbor when I lived in North Dakota. Because North Dakota is so far north, the daylight in the summer extends late into the night. So, it wasn’t uncommon for my neighbor to be out mowing his grass at 10 or 11 o’clock at night. Really, the only reason that bothered me is I had young children, one an infant. Regardless of how much light was outside, they needed to sleep, and I needed to sleep.

I could easily block out the noise, but it was more of a challenge for the young children. So, I did what I was taught to do during a conflict. I walked next door and talked to them. My neighbor admitted he liked the long days, so he could do outdoor work late into the night, but he stopped when I talked to him.

I was courteous, he was courteous and we remained friends. It was actually refreshing.

I’ve had neighbors have gatherings that grew fairly loud at times, but most of the time, I actually enjoyed listening in. I even lived next to an outdoor bar for a while. To be honest, it was pretty quiet with one exception. When the Houston Astros were playing in the World Series, I could follow every game based on the reaction of those in the bar.

When the Astros won game 7, the noise went on for some time, but I doubt anyone complained that night.

I listened last month when a woman in Curry County talked about how the constant noise next door impacted her life. I felt for the woman, but since the county has no ordinance, there was little that could be done.

In response, the Curry County Board of Commissioners vowed to change that, and they have started that process. The key to me is code enforcement says their goal will be to educate residents not punish them.

Everyone deserves to live a peaceful life at home. At the same time, everyone should have the right to do mostly as they please on their own property. Striking a balance is the challenge of law enforcement and code enforcement when it comes to noise ordinances.

Where I live now is in a group of five homes within about 1,000 feet in the country. I hear my neighbors occasionally when I’m outside, but I have never had an issue with it. My neighbors act like most do, courteously and respectfully of others.

I have five children, so we make noise. I’m sure it can be annoying at times. But we try to respectful and good neighbors. That’s a goal we can all work to achieve.


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