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Reaction is mixed at Jefferson Co. noise hearing

April 07, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Some residents praised the Jefferson County Commission Wednesday night for a proposed noise law the county is considering, while others questioned its effectiveness.

The comments came during a public hearing at the Charles Town Library.

The commissioners agreed to consider a noise law after hearing complaints recently from people about noisy neighbors, particularly in regards to loud parties.

In the proposed noise law, the commissioners are seeking to control noise that would be the equivalent of 65 decibels or louder.

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A small orchestra produces a noise level of about 70 decibels.

The law seeks to control noise from sources such as radios, television sets, musical instruments, phonographs and compact disc players. County Commission President Rusty Morgan said he would like to add motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles to that list.

The proposed law says it will be unlawful to operate such devices in a way where they would be heard at 65 decibels or louder "through the walls of apartment units within the range of the same building" between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

It also would be unlawful to generate noise at 65 decibels or higher during that time period from another property line or from the street.

It would be against the law to have a party or other event that produces noise at 65 decibels or louder from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Violators of the law could be ordered by a magistrate to stop the noise and to pay a fine of $50 to $300. A second violation would result in a fine of $150 to $500, the proposal states.

Shepherdstown, W.Va., resident Tim Pownell praised the commissioners for their work on the proposed noise law.

Pownell has complained previously to the commissioners about people at a house in the Glenn Meadows subdivision where he lives having parties as late as 3 a.m.

Pownell told the commissioners Wednesday night that when he complained to the neighbor about the noise, the neighbor told him he moved to West Virginia so he could engage in such activity.

Pownell told the commissioners that police can do nothing about loud noise.

"This is government in action and I appreciate that. I hope we can get something done," Pownell said.

Paul Koehler questioned whether police would have enough time to answer noise complaints.

Koehler said his experience in reporting noise problems to police is that the issue is "at the bottom of their crime-fighting list."

Michael Zagarella, a Martinsburg audiologist, said controlling noises that are considered an annoyance is tricky because troublesome noise is looked at differently among people.

Morgan said it could be a couple of weeks before the commissioners take any action on the proposal.

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