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County to review new noise ordinance

Clallam County commissioners want people in the community to speak up on a draft ordinance that, if approved, will make unincorporated areas of Clallam County a bit quieter.

Clallam County Sheriff’s Office staff drafted the ordinance with assistance from the Department of Community Development. It aims at keeping “frequent, repetitive or continuous sounds” and other public disturbance noise that “unreasonably disturbs the comfort, peace or repose of another person” to a minimum.

The county’s existing noise ordinance deals mainly with loud music, while the new law will be more explicit.

“In general I am not a proponent for new laws, but I think this is a good way to go,” Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said. “We always hope people can work out their differences, but this gives us a tool to handle disturbance situations involving noise.”

Benedict said that as the unincorporated areas of the county begin to get more populated, practices like running a backyard motorbike track through the night have brought his department a lot of calls, which is why Bagley Creek-area resident Diana Politika was happy to hear about the ordinance.

“I live adjacent to a motor track and the noise is just absolutely intolerable,” she said during the commissioners’ June 30 work session. “We are three property holdings away and you can’t stand outside and use a cell phone.”

Benedict said his deputies likely would be the ones responding to citizen complaints and they would have to use discretion and be versed in the code to make the right judgments on each call.

“This ordinance is a middle-of-the-road solution, incorporating codes and regulations from the state and from other counties that have successful noise laws,” Benedict said. “It doesn’t go as far as taking noise meters out on disturbance calls but takes enforcement a bit further than common law.”



Disturbing noises

If passed, the new law would prohibit a range of automobile activities from making noises that would disturb the comfort of another person, including the frequent use of a horn or siren or repetitive noises in connection with starting, operating, repairing, rebuilding or testing any motor vehicle within a rural residential area.

The ordinance includes restrictions on audio equipment inside vehicles and portable radios as well, stating if music stereos are used in a park, residential, rural or commercial area and they can be heard from a distance of 50 feet or more, deputies can consider them public disturbance noises.

While the noise from loud music is already regulated, the code adds to the existing regulation by restricting repetitive or ongoing noise from musical instruments, audio sound systems, citizen band radio, ham radio and other similar apparatuses that cause a disturbance to the surrounding areas.

The law includes yelling, shouting or whistling as possible disturbing noises, especially between the hours of 10 p.m.-6 a.m.



Exemptions

Several noises are exempt from the code — lawn mowers, garden tools, chain saws and other power equipment can be used for temporary projects between the hours of 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

Also, the code allows for noises originating from aircraft and flight operations, emergency equipment and devices and for the lawful discharge of firearms.

Sounds originating from temporary construction projects are allowed between the hours of 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Sounds from lawful events at parks and schools are restricted to the hours of 9 a.m.-11 p.m.

Authorized motor vehicle racing events are allowed from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m.-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.



Enforcement

Deputies likely will start enforcement by giving warnings. Then, after warnings the deputies will be able to issue citations and after the third encounter within a 12-month period the violation becomes a misdemeanor criminal offense.

Harley Oien, secretary for the Dry Creek Coalition, said he was glad to see a noise ordinance moving forward in the county. He and other residents of the Dry Creek community sued the county as well as Interfor Pacific Inc. for noise issues.

“We feel the county is rapidly urbanizing in Sequim and Port Angeles and people want to enjoy their homes in peace and quiet, which can come in conflict with economic development,” he said. “So we are very interested in this ordinance as long as it isn’t so restrictive people cannot live in and enjoy their homes.”

For more information on the Clallam County commissioners, for future meeting agendas and past meeting minutes, visit www.clallam.net.



The Clallam County commissioners will hold a public hearing on a proposed public nuisance and noise ordinance at 10:45 a.m. on July 15 during their regular board meeting in the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles.

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