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Noise ordinance attracts loud crowd

Officials tout the law as a tool to ease neighborhood noise disputes.

However, boisterous public comments indicate it could create a larger rift between adjacent property owners.

The Clallam County commissioners heard loud and clear from the public July 22 that they did not want a stricter noise ordinance, as proposed by Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

The proposed law would make it “unlawful for any person to cause … a public disturbance noise.” The noise is defined as “any noise, sound or signal, which unreasonably disturbs the comfort, peace or repose of another person or persons.”

Benedict prefaced the meeting with his reasoning behind the law and examples of other laws it was based on, such as ordinances from Kitsap, Skagit and King counties.

“Clallam County goes from extremely dense areas to very rural areas and we do not currently have an ordinance that helps me alleviate noise-related issues of our residents, especially those in denser areas,” Benedict said. “If I had a tool to handle these disputes, I would have a recourse to deal with those unwilling to respect their neighbors.”

Benedict gave an example of a backyard motorcycle track that runs adjacent to other homes well past 10 p.m. He said he is not interested in creating a “police state” but rather needs a way to handle extreme problems.

But virtually all who spoke at the meeting did not accept the code. Many sympathized, saying they supported Benedict’s efforts but thought the proposed code was too overreaching, too broad and relied too much on subjective judgments of deputies and citizen complaints.



More details

Ken Nattinger said he doesn’t like motorbikes, quads, NAS-CAR, or any noise for that matter, but he told the commissioners and the sheriff that he did not approve of the law.

“I think you need a tool,” he said to Benedict. “But make it specific. Have something more geared toward offenders and decibel readings rather than all noise that is offensive anywhere.”

Roy Jones, with Green Crow, said there needed to be more details regarding business and industry.

“This needs refining, but the intention is good,” he said. “But industries need clear and predictable laws and the definition of noise is not fair to those affected by it.”

Robert Peterson said the deputies are there for the safety of the public and that the level of noise should be based on what is not safe, citing Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for hurtful noise.



More serenity

While the majority of the speakers were against the ordinance, several were in favor of quieting down Clallam’s rural neighborhoods.

Robert Sprigel, of Sequim, said he was in support of the law because of his neighbors.

“My neighbor to the rear has a motorcycle track five feet away from the property line and when they are riding, my wife and I must go inside, shut the windows and wait it out,” he said. “We have the right to enjoy our yard.”

Max Mania, who organized a recent music festival in Port Angeles, said property rights go both ways and that it was every person’s responsibility to work with his or her neighbor, adding that he supported the sheriff’s noise code.



No change

Most speakers wanted no new ordinance at all, stating the current ordinance, which only regulates loud music, was enough.

Former Clallam County commissioner candidate Bob Forde attacked a small section of the ordinance that regulated yelling, shouting or whistling.

“How can whistling become offensive and illegal?” he asked. “What? Is it when someone whistles out of tune?”

Doug Smith, of Sequim, said he has a small motorcycle track on his land, which is more than six acres, and that he never has had a problem with his neighbors but he feared a sentence in the code that stated “disturbance noise related to motor vehicles and noise emanating from vehicles, enforcement may be undertaken with or without a citizen complaint.” All other violations would need a neighbor’s complaint.



Next steps

“I’m hearing loud and clear that you don’t shoot a fly with an elephant gun,” Benedict said after the public hearing. “We will take a look at this and see how we can refine and address (the proposal) in regard to your comments.”

The Clallam County commissioners will continue to be available to receive comments until a final decision is made. However, if large sections of the proposed code are changed, it may warrant a second public hearing in front of the commissioners.



The proposed noise ordinance and its future drafts will be available at www.clallam.net under “Ordinances and Policies.”

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