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City council gets update on proposed noise ordinance changes

Deputy City Attorney Meredith Everhart gave council members an update on the amended noise...
Deputy City Attorney Meredith Everhart gave council members an update on the amended noise ordinance, which could go before city council at its Aug. 20 meeting.
Updated: Aug. 5, 2019 at 12:12 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington City Council is expected to vote later this month on proposed changes to the city’s ordinances.

Deputy City Attorney Meredith Everhart gave council members an update on the amended noise ordinance, which could go before city council at its Aug. 20 meeting.

While the sound level maximums and minimums are staying the same, the changes will "standardized all the dates and times.”

Maximum sound levels from the proposed updates to the city's ordinance.
Maximum sound levels from the proposed updates to the city's ordinance.

Everhart also explained that sound levels will be measured at the property of the person who made the complaint. So if someone in a residential area (where the max decibel level of 55 after midnight) complains about noise coming from a commercial/industrial property (max of 70 dbs after midnight), a citation will not be issued unless the sound level exceeds 70 dBs at the residential property

“The measurement of the noise is going to be made at the property of the person who is calling in the complaint," Everhart said. "But the limit is going to be the limit that is applicable to the property that is accused of violating.”

Council member Kevin O’Grady took issue with this.

“You see, I thought these were limits. That this was as high as they could go,” O’Grady said. “What you’re really saying now is, you can go up to 90 or 100 as long as no one complains within that the zone. If someone complains in a residential zone, well then we’ll go measure it there. And if it’s low enough all of that projection of sound is OK.”

Everhart said that while there is an impression that the changes to the noise ordinance are targeting the downtown area, she presented council members with a map that showed that most of the noise complaints come from areas around UNCW.

“There’s a lot of belief that most of our noise problems come from the downtown area," she said. "But most of our noise complaints come from around the college area. That’s not to say that they are all college students but the type of housing that is around the college area tends to lend itself to rental homes and the type of places we do get a lot of complaints from.

“Based on some of the community meetings that we’ve gone to, it seems to be there was a misconception that we were focusing all these efforts on the downtown area. We want to make sure you were are aware that’s not the primary area where we do a lot of the noise enforcement.”

Everhart said the Wilmington Police Department recently ordered three new sound level meters, which will bring the department’s total to four.

Both the current and new versions of the ordinance allows an officer to cite people for a noise without a sound level meter but the current version doesn’t provide guidelines for the officer.

The new version will include 12 factors an officer will consider before citing without a meter.

Anyone wishing to exceed their allowed decibel level or time frame will need to apply for a permit.

Permit applications go to the chief of police, who has the authority to grant up to 10 decibels over the limit or up to an extension of an hour of time or both.

Any request to exceed those limits would then go to the city manager.

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