Police chief, commissioners review complaints
To change or not to change? That seems to be the question as Matthews re-examines its noise ordinance.
At the Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, July 9, town officials and Chief of Police Rob Hunter discussed the town’s current noise ordinance and whether it’s time to make some changes.
During this year’s planning conference, some board members expressed concerns that the current noise ordinance wasn’t as effective as it should be. The ordinance, created in February 2005, is based on a “reasonableness” standard – what the community would consider reasonable – and places restrictions on certain motor vehicles, amplified sounds including loudspeakers and music and other sounds impacting residential life.
Since 2005, the town’s volunteer environmental committee has proposed revisions to the ordinance – mostly clarifications including definitions, expansion on sound prohibitions and consolidation of similar sections. In addition, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Bailey submitted a proposed revision to the ordinance, significantly limiting the time of day amplified sounds would be allowed. Commissioners haven’t yet voted on any of these options.
Some commissioners believe a significant number of sounds that could potentially disturb the peace – and those that have brought the matter to discussion – come from athletic fields and related events. Matthews currently has four major recreational fields or facilities: Butler High School, Crestdale Middle School, Warner Park and the Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association.
Mayor Jim Taylor said the primary complaints he’s heard are sounds of crowds cheering and yelling during sporting events and kids “screaming and having fun,” something he wasn’t sure the town could even control with ordinance revisions.
But Bailey’s concerns go a step further, he said.
“It goes beyond just children and screaming,” Bailey said. “It’s coaches yelling at children and the language being used that shouldn’t be used. Let’s call it what it is.”
Taylor responded, stating he didn’t think that was a major issue.
“I can honestly say I’ve never witnessed anything … other than cheering,” he said. “I’m not there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but I can tell you the times I have been there it’s been all good.”
But these concerns may not be a significant issue with the public, as shown in statistics Hunter outlined in his memo and referenced in his presentation to commissioners Monday evening.
Since July 1, 2011, the Matthews Police Department has responded to 256 noise complaints: loud music, barking dogs, fireworks, shots fired, arguments and other incidents. Only four resulted in investigative reports being taken, three of which were barking dog calls and one that was a non-related arrest. The remaining 252 calls were settled at the time of the call, Hunter said.
Taylor told the board citizen surveys showed the vast majority of residents are in favor of the activities held throughout the town, regardless of the noise. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend we don’t have people that are impacted by (noise) negatively, but I think many, many more are positively impacted,” he said. “So we need to be aware that this may be … a very small vocal minority. We have to try to help them out the best we can, but it may be in the best interest of the town not to do
The town hopes to get more information on the impact of the current noise ordinance from the environmental committee, as well as host a public meeting in the near future to get input from the citizens.