Kenbridge works on noise ordinance

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kenbridge is working on developing its own noise ordinance, but officials don’t expect it to be fast or easy.

“It’s a complicated, challenging topic,” Councilman Michael R. Bender said at the council’s April meeting. “We have to get it right.”

Town Attorney Cal Spencer told the council that a committee will have to meet to examine the fine points of the ordinance and the town will have to be precise in what it develops.

“As soon as you pass an ordinance you’re going to have residents saying you need to enforce it,” he said.

The town could focus on barking dogs, loud mufflers and loud music.

“All that affects the entire community,” Mayor Emory Hodges said. “It affects the quality of life; it affects if a house will be sold.”

Raymond Hite, a council member and police chief, said that as the town looks into the ordinance it also is looking into the equipment used to measure noise — but the meters cost between $1,000 and $2,500; and there is a strict, 28-point guideline of specifications for the equipment to meet to get a conviction in court.

Among the meter’s requirements are date and time display; fast/slow time response selection capability; internal memory to hold a minimum of 15,000 event readings; integral microphone with removable windscreen; a waterproof case that provides easy removal and return of the instrument; a calibrator unit that will also verify the sound level meter operation and accuracy; complete and clear documentation of instructions for use and care of the device; and “full clear” documentation on use of the Windows software.

And its power source should be AA batteries, or a 9-volt battery or rechargeable battery.

“In addition, a summary of instructions for use of the meter shall be included in the carrying case, in an easy to read format, suitable for use by law enforcement personnel in this field,” the specifications noted.

Noted Hodges, “If you have to have a meter, you have to have the right one.”

Kenbridge officials said in March they will take another look at the town’s noise ordinance and may adopt some elements of the county’s recently adopted one.

However, Spencer warned at the time that the town should move cautiously, noting, “I don’t want us to pass something that will be so restrictive it will get a lot of complaints.”

Hodges agreed, insisting that whatever the town develops “needs to be simple and direct, what you’re trying to get after.”

Specifically, council members worried about the ordinance opening a flood-gate of complaints and legal wrangling over barking dogs.

In February, the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors ended months of debate when it adopted a noise ordinance.

The county ordinance calls for meters to be used to gauge noise.

Kenbridge and Victoria have their own regulations, but the county is asking the localities to look at also adopting its ordinance. However, Victoria changed its noise ordinance late last year and made sure not to require the use of meters.