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Proposed noise ordinance presented

The Farmville Town Council was presented with the first draft of a proposed new noise ordinance by Town Attorney Gary Elder during its Wednesday, Oct. 9, meeting following a request from the council’s Finance and Ordinance Committee.

Gary Elder

According to Interim Town Manager, Dr. C. Scott Davis, the original discussion on the town’s noise ordinance began several months ago when Buffalo Wild Wings had a DJ playing music on the outside patio, and a complaint was made.

During its September meeting, the council heard a complaint from Floyd Duffey, who resides on Randolph Street. Duffey, who lives behind the North Street Press Club, said he had concerns over loud noise coming from the establishment late into the night.

Following the September meeting and in an email to The Farmville Herald, Nash Osborn, an owner of the North Street Press Club, stated, “We at North Street Press Club have heard and are aware of Mr. Duffey’s ongoing noise complaints, and we are working diligently as we have from the time we opened to address these issues.”

Osborne also added that his establishment has been working closely with the Hotel Weyanoke to maintain a comfortable sound level at night. “This is a work in progress, and we can assure the community that we are doing all that we can to fix any current issues.” Osborne’s email stated.

Sec. 16-1 of the current Town of Farmville Noise Ordinance states, “No person shall create any loud or disturbing noise in the town. Noise of such character, intensity or duration as to be detrimental to the life or health of any person or to disturb or annoy the quiet, comfort, or repose of any person is hereby prohibited.” The ordinance further states, “Playing any radio, phonograph or musical instrument in such a manner or with such volume or duration, particularly during the hours between 12:00 midnight and 7 a.m., as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons in or on the property of any dwelling, hotel or other types of residence is prohibited.”

In the first draft of the newly proposed noise ordinance, Sec. 16-1 now defines what is loud and disturbing, stating, “Unreasonable Loud: Noise which is substantially incompatible with the time and locations where created to the extent that it creates an actual or imminent interference with peace or good order is. The following factors incident to such noise are to be considered: time of day; proximity to residential structures; whether the noise is recurrent, intermittent or constant; the volume and intensity; whether the noise is related to normal operation of a business or other labor activity and whether the noise is subject to being controlled without unreasonable effort or expense to the creator.

Disturbing: Noise which is perceived by a person of ordinary sensibilities as interrupting the normal peace and calm of the area. In determining whether a noise is unreasonably loud and disturbing, the following factors incident to such noise are to be considered: time of day; proximately to residential structures; whether the noise is recurrent, intermittent or constant; the volume and intensity; whether the noise has been enhanced in volume or range by any type of electronic or mechanical means; the charter and zoning of the area; whether the noise is related to normal operation of a business or other labor activity and whether the noise is subject to being controlled without unreasonable effort or expense to the creator.”

Town Attorney Gary Elder said he had met with Farmville Police Chief A.Q. “Andy” Ellington and that his department had a strong desire to make sure that there’s absolute clarity within the ordinance. “That can be problematic a little bit,” said Elder, “Because it’s an ordinance that calls for some degree of subjectiveness, I don’t know that you can have an absolute definition of what constitutes something that’s too loud … that’s clearly the issue, does it (loud noise) disturb anyone?”

In an email, Chief Ellington did confirm that his department wanted clarity on the noise ordinance and also wished to see certain time restrictions but did not say what those certain times should be.

Christopher Page, the owner of Bright Lights Entertainment, addressed council during the public comment period, saying he wanted to remind them that Farmville was a college town and that entertainment was a big business in the town. “Entertainment is a big part of the food and beverage tax that comes in every year,” said Page. “I do shows for the Press Club on Tuesdays, and I don’t speak for them. I speak for myself. I have a lot of clients in town, and we have done everything we can to adjust when a complaint comes in.”

Farmville Mayor David Whitus says that the town’s noise ordinance is a work in progress. “There’s lots of moving parts, and there are so many things that need to be addressed,” he explained. “So, I think maybe next month the Finance and Ordinance Committee can come back with yet another draft.”

Once the council adopts a draft, there must be a public hearing, and citizens as well as business owners will have an opportunity to weigh in on the ordinance before it becomes final.