OUR OPINION: Noise in county a reasonable concern
by NEMS Daily Journal
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Phil Raven hangs out on his porch with one of his dogs and some tunes. A county noise ordinance would impact him and a neighbor. (C. Todd Sherman)
A long-simmering dispute in Lee County about excessive noise - involving mostly two households and repeated complaints about one of those residents and loud music - raises the issue of the Board of Supervisors enacting a noise-control ordinance.

A discussion is appropriate, not because of repeated complaints involving neighbors, but because excessive noise is a quality of life issue in unincorporated areas of Lee County and within municipalities.

Many people move outside municipalities to escape what they consider excessive regulation, but it is arguable that just as many, perhaps more, choose to live in the countryside for its peace and quiet.

Everyone's personal freedom is limited so that one person's preferences don't harmfully infringe on another person's choices.

The tension and "distance" between differences works voluntarily only with self-restraint and respect.

Restraint and respect become more important as neighborhoods gain more residents, with people living closer together in terms of sight, sound and other behavior.

Many growing counties already have countywide ordinances for issues like noise control, so the Lee County board has easy access to what might be "model" laws to use in drawing any kind of ordinance it deems necessary.

A hearing scheduled at 9 a.m., Feb. 21, at the Lee County Justice Center will provide opportunity for advocacy or opposition.

Supervisors' President Phil Morgan, District 1, has expressed concerns about drawing an ordinance too narrowly, citing the use of chain saws, a common activity, as an example. Morgan's concerns are valid, and there's no reason they could not be addressed.

The necessity of ordinances in Lee County seems likely to increase as population growth continues and concentrates.

A model New Jersey ordinance sets parameters and defines why noise control is important, which is the starting point for any discussions:

"Whereas excessive sound is a serious hazard to the public health, welfare, safety, and the quality of life; and ... a substantial body of science and technology exists by which excessive sound may be substantially abated; and ... the people have a right to, and should be ensured of, an environment free from excessive sound ... it is the policy of (insert name) to prevent excessive sound ...."

The model language then specifies the kinds of sound that are to be regulated within the limits local government may choose. Discussions should include ways to narrow the kinds of noise people find most offensive.

Most people don't rush toward excessive regulation but consider it in the same vein as the neighbor in "Mending Wall," the famous poem by Robert Frost:

"Good fences make good neighbors."

Does Lee County need to seriously consider a countywide noise control ordinance?

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January 10, 2012
But building that fence is going to make a lot of noise. Careful what the yes voters wish for, these laws can be misused in too many ways.
January 10, 2012
WE do not need government telling people how to live. But we do have courts to resolve disputes among neighbors. Let the judges judge and give the responsibility back to the people.