County ends push to regulate noise

WOODSTOCK – An effort by Shenandoah County to tackle loud music and noise died Thursday.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 at a work session not to pursue the creation of an ordinance aimed at curbing loud music and other noises in the county.

Chairman David Ferguson and Supervisor Cindy Bailey supported the idea of county staff drawing up a proposed ordinance that the board could then consider at a regular meeting. Ferguson sought the ordinance to give law enforcement a tool to go after people playing loud music or creating other noises. The board would have been required to hold a public hearing on an ordinance. While the board doesn’t usually take official action at its work sessions, members have in recent years used the sessions to determine what topics should move forward to their regular meetings.

Vice Chairman Conrad Helsley and Supervisors Steven Baker, John R. “Dick” Neese and Marsha Shruntz voted against asking staff to craft the ordinance. Baker, who runs a farm, reiterated that machines used in agricultural operations make noise, sometimes through the night. Some members indicated that an ordinance likely wouldn’t apply to farming operations.

The board broached the idea in May after Ferguson noted that some constituents complained about loud noises but law enforcement had little power to go after offenders. An ordinance on the books could give authorities the power to charge residents for violating noise regulations. The board instructed staff to research the matter, find out if other counties enforce a noise ordinance and whether or not such rules work. The board continued its discussion and debate in June and asked staff to meet with Sheriff Timothy C. Carter and find out his thoughts on such an ordinance.

In the last 13 months the Sheriff’s Office received 29 calls for noise complaints, Carter said. Of that number, 23 were reports of music or parties while the remaining calls pertained to loud vehicles, barking dogs and other noises, Carter said. In that time, the deputies were called to one address three times and they had one repeat caller for loud music complaints, he said.

“Historically, the way we’ve managed or mitigated noise complaints is that we go and we talk to the parties involved,” Carter said. “For the most part, I think people are reasonable and, for the most part … the way we mitigate it is we ask them to be mindful of their neighbor’s wishes and the circumstances with regard to what the neighbor’s complaint is about and, for the most part, they do comply.”

“There are occasions, from time to time, where you have parties that are not or they cannot come to some resolution in that matter,” Carter added. “It’s not frequent.”

Helsley asked Carter if he was comfortable with the way the office has been able to resolve noise complaints thus far. Carter didn’t specifically answer Helsley but rather reiterated that in some circumstances parties don’t reach a resolution.

The Sheriff’s Office has had to use the county’s nuisance ordinance on occasion, Carter said. However, the ordinance requires that the office give the offending party a notice and 10 days to comply. In some cases deputies responding to noise complaints found other violations, such as underage drinking, Carter said.

“So to answer your question, Conrad, we work with the system that we have,” Carter said. “The question is would we be opposed to something like this? I think the answer I would give you is if the board is going to draft a noise ordinance it needs to be practical, it needs to be reasonable. It would need to not infringe upon people’s constitutional liberties.”

Carter added that he didn’t know if the Sheriff’s Office would use such an ordinance that often.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com