Maggie Valley was thrust back into controversy over its noise ordinance last week, an ongoing debate that has pitted residents against bars hosting live bands outdoors.
Only four months after the previous town board made changes to the noise ordinance, the current town board decided once again to revise the law — causing concern for some residents.
“You’re changing something that you don’t even know if you’ve fixed yet,” said resident Cheryl Lambert. Lambert said she thought the issue had already been settled in September.
The former Board of Aldermen altered the noise ordinance last fall after complaints from some town residents and lodging owners.
Mayor Ron DeSimone said the old board left disputes regarding the ordinance unsettled — namely the cut-off time for music and a separate criteria for acoustic music.
“Even on the board there was no complete agreement on the times, on not addressing acoustic music,” DeSimone said.
Last September, the town board strengthened the noise ordinance by imposing an earlier cut-off time for music on weekdays and lowering the maximum decibel level.
Last week, the board strengthened it one notch more by imposing earlier cut-off times for amplified outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, plus an even earlier cut-off on weekdays.
However, an exception was made for acoustic music, which will enjoy a later cut-off time since it isn’t amplified and thus not as loud.
“We have encouraged acoustic music versus amplified music,” DeSimone said.
Residents and hotel owners complaining of noise spilling over from nearby bars claim the ordinance still doesn’t go far enough, however.
The noise ordinance does not apply to the fairgrounds, which negotiates such details with event organizers on a case-by-case basis.
‘Prisoners in our own home’
During the meeting, several residents and business owners spoke up about how music emanating from Maggie Valley restaurants and bars negatively impacts them.
“It’s louder than most of you think,” said resident Rosanne Cavender. “It’s very stressful.”
Her father Ray Kuutti, who is a musician, backed Cavender’s comments.
“I was outside painting, and this stuff started going on, and I couldn’t stay out there,” he said. Kuutti added that he does not mind the outdoor acoustic music, which generates less noise.
Alderman Mike Matthews argued that people chose to live in the tourist town and must therefore tolerate some additional noise.
“We are not going back to the old noise ordinance at all (but) I am not willing to shut everything down at 6 o’clock,” Matthews said.
Lambert said she would like to move if she could but when her house was put up for sale, it stayed on the market for two years without being purchased. The reason, she said, is because of the noise.
“We are prisoners in our own home,” said Lambert, who lives near the Maggie Valley Inn. “We can’t watch TV; we can’t turn on the radio; we can’t go outside.”
Some Maggie Valley hotels and inns have lost business because the noise emitted from nearby restaurants disturbs their guests.
“There needs to be a level of respect and decorum,” said Carol Burrell, who runs the Creekside Lodge near the Tiki House Seafood and Oyster Bar. “If I can hear music in my business and it’s coming from inside a business, how loud is it?”
Last year, the Maggie Valley Police Department responded to 37 noise complaints.
In a complaint against Hurley’s, Jonathan Creek Inn owner Jeff Smith said he refused to lose any more money because noise from the restaurant disturbs his clients.
In several instances, the Maggie Valley police responded to a complaint and asked the offender to keep it down. However, an officer was forced to return later when the noise once again became a problem.
“Once or twice I heard them turn it down, but it never stayed down,” Kuutti said.
Several individuals also stated that businesses would quiet down before a police officer could measure the noise level to avoid getting in trouble. Officers are required to measure the sound level for 20 seconds while standing no more than 10 feet away from the property line, a procedure that gives bands enough warning to turn down their sound
Reining it in
Cut-off time: 11 p.m. Mon-Sat
Decibel level: 75 on weekends, 65 on weekdays
Changes made last September:
Cut-off time: 11 p.m. on weekends, 10 p.m. on weekdays
Decibel level: 70 on weekends, 65 on weekdays
Changes made last week:
Cut-off time: 10 p.m. on weekends, 9 p.m. on weekdays*
Decibel level: 70 on weekends, 65 on weekdays
* An exception is made for acoustic music, which can be played until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Noise complaints by the numbers
• Tiki House Seafood and Oyster Bar: 6 (all during August)
• Salty Dog’s Seafood and Grill: 4
• Hurley’s Creekside Dining and Rhum Bar: 4 (all during July)
• Barking Dogs: 4
• Maggie Valley Inn: 2
• Stingrays: 1
• Maggie Valley Festival Grounds: 1
• Other homes and rentals: 15