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Lee County noise ordinance could ease thorny case
by Emily Le Coz/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)
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Jacky Blackburn’s home is next to Raven’s on County Road 251.
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TUPELO - Lee County residents facing a possible noise ordinance can trace its roots to a years-long feud between two rural neighbors.

Jacky Blackburn wants the county to set and enforce volume limits after suffering the loud music and partying of his up-all-night neighbor, a man he has had jailed numerous times for disturbing the peace.

But that neighbor, Phil Raven, called the ordinance nonsense and accused Blackburn of repeatedly harassing him and his family to the point of a nervous breakdown. He said he can't enjoy his own yard anymore for fear his neighbor will hurl insults at him and call the law.

"They're just trying to break me," Raven said. "They think I'm a poor old country boy and that I'll get scared and go away. They don't know me very well."

Blackburn said he's the one who can't enjoy his yard: "He's just trash. It's not even so much the music. It's the cussing and the screaming. It's so bad I've had to get my grandkids out of the pool to come in the house."

The situation began shortly after Blackburn built his home next door to Raven on County Road 251. At first, the families were cordial, and Raven's children played with the Blackburn's horses and swam in their pool.

But Raven plunged into depression after his wife died and admitted to easing his pain with loud music and beer while sitting in the small above-ground pool outside his house.

Blackburn complained, but the music continued. So he called the Sheriff's Department, whose deputies told him they could do nothing since the county had no noise ordinance. To get relief, Blackburn would have to file an affidavit at Justice Court saying Raven disturbed the peace and settle the matter before a judge.

Blackburn did this in 2008, 2009 and again in 2011, according to county records. Another neighbor, Robert Woods, also filed a similar complaint in 2008. Each time, a deputy arrived at Raven's home to take him to jail where he would sit sometimes for two or three days. And each time, Raven had to post bond, hire an attorney and show up in court to defend himself.

Each time he was found not guilty, but the two most recent charges are still pending.

"Thousands of dollars this guy has cost me," Raven said, tearing up. "I'm a nervous wreck. I jump every time I hear my dogs barking because I think I'm going to get arrested again."

Blackburn also filed charges against Raven's father for stalking. That charge was dismissed by a Justice Court judge, as was a charge Raven filed against Blackburn for harassment.

Blackburn said the situation would end if Raven would live quietly and respectfully, but he said the disruptions never cease.

He pulled out a notebook with two dozen pages of hand-scribed entries, each one detailing another Raven incident. He said one morning his wife awoke to loud music and went outside to find Raven's speakers placed at the edge of their property on full volume. It was done to incite them, he said.

The boom box Raven said he uses has no detachable speakers and only a short cord. He said he never placed it at the Blackburns' property line. When he turned it on at his preferred volume, country music filled the air. It was loud, but not loud enough to prevent conversation.

After the 2009 arrest and court appearance, Raven said he tried to strike a deal with Blackburn to end the feud. He would stop his music at 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on the weekend. But he said Blackburn refused.

Blackburn wasn't immediately available to comment on that statement, which was provided during a later interview.

"This is why people live in the country, so they can listen to music and do what they want to do on their own property," Raven said. "This noise ordinance, to change something like that for one man's obsession is asinine."

It'd have been different, Raven said, had he moved into Blackburn's neighborhood and interrupted his lifestyle. But Raven and his family have lived on the rural road since 1984.

They were the second family to locate there, said his mother, Mary Raven.

Over time, more residents joined the neighborhood but none complained until Blackburn.

Blackburn said no one complained because there's no noise ordinance.

Filing an affidavit requires residents sign their own names and go to court - a step many aren't prepared to make when it involves disputes with a neighbor they must face daily.

If it passes, the noise ordinance will shift the burden of enforcement to the Sheriff's Department. Deputies can find anyone in violation if noise emanating from a property exceeds 65 decibels during the day and 58 at night.

For comparison, a vacuum cleaner hits about 70 decibels and a normal conversation reaches 60, according to the American Speak-Language Hearing Association.

"If it breaks the barriers, you're going to be under violation of the ordinance and we'll have the right to charge you," said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. "So if you're running a chain saw or something you could be breaking the ordinance, and that's the part I don't like."

A chain saw creates 110 decibels of sound, according to ASHA.

Johnson has voiced reservations about the proposed ordinance several times during discussions with the Lee County Board of Supervisors, where Blackburn has lobbied for it. He said it will be hard to enforce and has the potential for abuse.

"This thing is driven by one or two people who are complaining that we don't have a noise ordinance," he said. "It's not a situation where we've got 5,000 people in my office demanding this."

Board of Supervisors' President Phil Morgan said he hadn't received any complaints about noise prior to the Blackburn case, either, but he believes the ordinance will pass. The board will hold a public hearing on the matter at 9 a.m., Feb. 21 at the Lee County Justice Center.

"We want to make sure ... it's drawn in such a fashion that we'll not have a slippery slope, so it's not to the point where you can't run a chain saw," Morgan said. "But that you can at least have some peace of mind and sleep at night."

Deputies won't ride around, decibel meters hanging out the window, trying to bust people for noise violations, Johnson said.

It will be a complaint-driven process where neighbors still must call in to report offenders. Deputies then can take a reading to see if charges are warranted.

Under that scenario, Raven's decibels would determine whether he faces punishment.

emily.lecoz@journalinc.com

How Loud is Loud?

DECIBELS SOUND SOURCE

150 Fireworks

140 Firearms

130 Jack hammer

120 Ambulance siren

110 Chain saw

105 Lawnmower

100 Hand drill

95 Motorcycle

90 Blow dryer

85 Heavy city traffic

70 Vacuum cleaner

60 Normal conversation

50 Moderate rainfall

40 Refrigerator humming

30 Whispered voice

SOURCE: American Speak-Language

Hearing Association; National Institute on

Deafness and other Communication Disorders
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Ridgerebel
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January 10, 2012
Mr. Blackburn is telling the truth. I was neighbors for several years with that "trash" Raven and it was much worse than Blackburn is telling. You just wouldn't believe the antics that went on! Fights, drinking, loud music, half-naked women in full view. It was redneck trash at its finest. Mr. Raven loves pushing his neighbors buttons. Get a job and do something with your life! Sheesh!!!
sportsfanz
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January 10, 2012
We need a law like that so lee county will be a good place to live where you can sleep at night without hearing someone acting like a fool, we need a law on loud auto pipes/stereos as well. Please contact your area supervisor and push for this. You will be glad you did when someone opens a nightclub next to your house. There is a difference between needing to use a chainsaw for a little bit and someone playing loud music constantly. You deserve to be able to relax inside your own home. Call your supervisor asap!!! For everyone who says "oh whats a little noise"? Well, let me park a boom car next to your home from 10pm till 2am and lets see how long it takes you call the law. Shame on any supervisor that votes this law down.
ridgegirl
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January 09, 2012
I live in this neighborhood and have tolerated Mr Raven's antics for several years now. Mr Raven wants to come across as a victim which couldn't be farther from the truth. This victim mentality is what's wrong with our society. If Mr Raven is a nervous wreck, it may have to do with his other 'run-ins' with the law that have nothing to do with his neighbors. Most people who work for a living are too tired to stay up partying and screaming obscenities at their neighbors until all hours of the morning. We won't be intimidated by Mr Raven or his family members.
44eagleman
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January 08, 2012
What about me. I love to target shoot with my .45,(with a back stop). I have cattle. I farm. On the 4th of July or Christmas, we may shoot some fireworks. I use a chainsaw, drill, sander and ocassionally beat on a piece of metal with a ball pein hammer. We may play our radio when outside working on a project. Our land has been in our family for nearly 100 years and MY WIFE AND I pay the taxes on it. No board of super whatevers are going to tell us what we can and can't do on our own place. If wanted to live as a communist, I would move to China. Get a life and stop your whinning!!!!
straightsense
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January 07, 2012
Must be some more to this. I have a feeling Raven was enjoying his ability to do as he saw fit with his purchase and bam...in comes a neighbor. Well new neighbor decides to change the neighborhood to suit his preferences and the game was on. I can feel for Raven (I've had new kids on the block come in and try to change what the current neighbors had going on) and I can feel for Blackburn. Yet I must say Blackburn should have bought and built where he knew his desires would be achieved.

That said, the situation is as it is with neither apparently going anywhere. Thus, as another has said.....they need to grow up, find mutual ground and move on. Police have more serious issues to deal with than an ordinance that will be ultimately an individual call.

One must consider an emergency generator for example many times creates more decibels than stated. In time of utility outage will one be cited for their generator running ? Go to the Courthouse and listen to that bad boy run. Then the question of from where do you measure the sound level ? At the source or at the complaining parties property line or inside the complaining parties residence ?

Go ahead and open a can of worms. As usual, some bad apples will spoil the whole bunch.

As I have said about Tupelo....if you want to live in a certain environment....buy there.
sawmilltrash
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January 08, 2012
Excellent post, straightsense.

I've seen this act replayed many times. People leave an area because it doesn't suit them for some reason, set up shop somewhere else, and immediately begin to work to change things to be enough like where they left to fit their comfort zone.

I've lived on family land for going on seven decades. I have good neighbors, but there are getting to be way too many of them. Sooner or later, there will have to be one who doesn't care about long established community traditions...come to think of it, already got him. It's been a given in this area for three generations that you don't post land against your neighbors. Young sprout posted against everybody -- then wonders why we won't join him in his Republican political activity.

So it goes. But there will always be a place for common civility. I prowl old cemeteries and church yards in remote areas. I've often been checked out by hunting club members or neighborhood watch types. Always without offense. They were "raised right."

Once when I stopped on the public road right-of-way to photograph a fall landscape, a guy rides up on a bike...stretch pants, tour-de-franky shirt, goofy helmet...the whole nine yards. If my young son had not been with me, I'd have reverted to my red-neck ways and tried to teach him some manners. Turned out he was some kind of psychology prof from the University who owned a place in the area. He oozed yamdankee condescension and contempt. He could have benefited from a few nights around the fire at a hunting club to learn some manners.
Winston_Smith
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January 07, 2012
Hate that it has to come down to passing an ordinance and getting the sheriffs involved. I had a problem with my neighbor playing loud music in college and I just had to go talk to him about it. I spoke to him once and it wasn't ever a problem again. A shame these grown men can't reach an understanding without resorting to calling the police.
BobDobbs
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January 07, 2012
My sympathies go out to Mr. Raven on the passing of his wife, but he needs to grow up a little and figure out better coping mechanisms to deal with the loss. Everybody has to howl out their pain every now and then, but at this point he's tipped over into prideful, childish, ignorant self-indulgence. But Blackburn calling Raven "trash" is even worse. Both of these yahoos come off looking bad. If they're going to act like a couple of fourth-graders, lock 'em in a room somewhere and let the fourth-graders fight it out.
browngirl
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January 07, 2012
Mr. Raven seems to want to rock the boat or just get off by getting his neighbor riled up. Mr. Raven stated he was depressed from loosing his wife. There are places that would help him if he only asked. I have never lost a spouse so I know nothing of how he feels. I think by being alone that would make me want to be kinder to my neighbor in case there was an emergency. Mr. Raven sounds very down but blaring music at all hours is not going to help matter, if anything it will be worse. Mr. Raven get youself some earbuds and then crank that music up as loud as you want to. You can get them at Walmart, Dollar General, Wlagreens. With this being said....makes me wonder what is behind the blue tarp.
LogicalLeo
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January 07, 2012
And don't forget the train at Crosstown at 1:00... I mean 1:35... I mean 2:05... When can I complain about THAT noise that wakes me up so many times each night and some sort of action be taken? How about the loud school buses that would be in violation of an ordinance. Wait, Tupelo already has a noise ordinance. One for the county will be just the same - UNENFORCED.
nojusticeinms
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January 07, 2012
By the "trash" statement, this man must think his "s**t" don't stink like everyone else's. This will probably backfire on him, better keep the grandkids silent, the horses from whinnying, & get a electric lawnmower, because he's gonna be in violation too. What about people who work the nightshift & their neighbors mow, or start banging around early in the morning when their trying too sleep? The sheriffs department is gonna be overwhelmed with silly calls.
mwar12767
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January 07, 2012
according to what i just read there simply arent enough complaints coming in, i live on cr 752 and believe me there is plenty of unnecessary noise and even drug dealing going on every weekend, the traffic is the tell tale sign,the noise is even @ three or four in the morning sometimes. im all for the noise ordinance and if we get it so people know the officers can do something about it im sure there will be more complaints. i moved out here from verona for peace and quiet not to be bothered by people.
gatorchop
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January 07, 2012
Hope it passes, then maybe something will be done about my neighbor's 13 dogs that wake me up in the middle of the night barking. When noise interferes with people's normal living conditions, it's too loud. How about when you are listening to a radio in your car and someone drives up next to you at a light and you can't hear your car radio because their radio is so loud.
Tupelo23
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January 07, 2012
How epic is it that Phil and his dog are striking the same pose. The only thing that would have made this photo better is if the dog had been howling.
Lisa49
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January 07, 2012
Phil living in society means you have responsibilities. You can still homestead in Alaska if you do not want to be around people.

It is people like you that bring about unwanted laws. Exactly what is your goal in life?