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Homeowners hot over noisy neighbors in subdivision

September 10, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday revisited the issues of noise and how to control it.

A group of homeowners from the Glenn Meadows subdivision near Shepherdstown, W.Va., told the commissioners about a problem they are having with late-night partying in their neighborhood.

Glenn Meadows resident Tim Pownell said people at a house in the subdivision often have parties late into the night, sometimes as late as 3 a.m. People were partying at the house last Friday and Saturday, Pownell said.

"The noise was unbearable. We didn't sleep," Pownell said.

"This is pretty dramatic. This is not like kids. This is adults," Pownell added.

The West Virginia State Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department have been called because of the noise, but police officers say they cannot do anything about it, Pownell told the commissioners.

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Pownell said police told him that as long as people stay on their own property, they can have parties as often as they want and be as loud as they want.

Pownell said police advised him that if he wants to pursue the issue further, he should talk with local government officials.

Pownell told the commissioners he believes a noise control law is needed in the county.

Brandy Sims, an assistant Jefferson County prosecuting attorney who represents the commission, told the commissioners she does not believe the county can go that far.

Sims said her best advice is for the homeowners association or property owners to consider addressing the issue through a lawsuit.

Sims said she does not believe the commission could deal with the issue in a broader sense because the problem in the Glenn Meadows subdivision, which is off Flowing Springs Road, is not one that affects the general public.

Pownell questioned whether the county would consider something broader if he found people in other subdivisions who are having the same problem.

"I think I could get those," Pownell said.

County Commission President Al Hooper said restrictive covenants that are in place in some subdivisions sometimes can be modified to control certain problems.

There are restrictive covenants for Glenn Meadows, but the problem is none of them address issues like noise, said Colin Voigt, who is president of the homeowners association in the development.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan said he is surprised that police cannot do anything about noise problems. Morgan said he thought such problems could be categorized as a disturbance of the peace.

Commissioner Greg Corliss said complaints about noise likely would increase as the county grows, and he believes county officials are sensitive to the problem.

"Individuals have a right to enjoy the ownership of their property," Corliss said.

Commissioner Jane Tabb said dealing with such issues will be a "balancing act" as more people start living closer together in the county.

The commissioners agreed to table the issue to give them more time to consider the matter and look at how Berkeley County has dealt with the matter.

Morgan said controlling noise problems is a complex issue.

Earlier in the year, some county residents complained about barking dogs and the commissioners were considering a law to control that problem.

But the commissioners later backed off from the proposal. Commissioner James G. Knode said the commissioners were wrestling with difficult elements of the proposed ordinance, such as what constitutes loud or repetitive barking.

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