After a rash of citizen complaints, county commissioners are looking to create a noise ordinance that will allow for some enforcement when neighbors encounter a nuisance.
“I have been getting more than a few phone calls about people playing loud music at inopportune times, very late at night,” said county commissioner Gary Stamper, who has raised the issue repeatedly in recent weeks. “I’m not looking to squelch anyone’s fun or trample on anyone’s rights, but we’ve got to have a solution.”
Stamper raised the issue at a meeting Tuesday with members of the prosecutor attorney’s office and Sheriff Rob Snaza. Snaza said the measure had first been brought up in 2017, prompting him to reach out to his counterparts throughout the state. He received five responses of various ordinances other counties have in place.
“If we have a barking dog complaint, we can cite,” Snaza said. “So why can’t the same rule be in play for a noise ordinance?”
Currently, when sheriff’s deputies receive a complaint about a noisy neighbor, they can only go to their house and ask them to stop, but have no ability to issue a citation or infraction. Snaza said he believes there’s a better solution, but asked that commissioners not institute an ordinance with specific noise levels that would require deputies to take readings with decibel meter.
“I think we can use more simplicity,” he said. “If you can hear this music or obnoxious noise at a certain time, then we start looking at enforcing some type of ordinance. … Common sense, we should be able to make a decision based on how far down the road is the officer parked, can you hear the noise — we give warnings, but we should have leverage where we can actually do something where you’re going to get a citation.”
Wayne Whiton, the county’s risk and safety administrator, also requested that a decibel-specific measure be avoided.
Civil deputy prosecutor Cullen Gatten said he has been working on a draft of a noise ordinance, drawn from policies in other counties, designed to deter public disturbances.
“This is just a proposal,” he said. “I’m hoping to have a suggestion on how to make it work for the county.”
He noted that a measure would likely include exemptions to fit into Lewis County’s rural traditions, such as livestock noise.
Whatever ordinance is enacted, Snaza said that it’s important for law enforcement to have more power when noise issues get out of hand.
“You see the number of complaints, and it’s unfortunate when you can’t help the individuals who are facing this every week,” he said.