Sylva leaders are looking to tighten the town’s noise ordinance on the heels of complaints by one of their own.
Commissioner Harold Hensley, who lives in the N.C. 107 area of Sylva, said he took calls a few weeks ago from neighbors about the loudness of music from a nearby restaurant. Hensley said he believes people should be able to sit outside their own homes if they want and enjoy a cookout without being bothered by loud music.
“You can’t contain all noise,” the town’s attorney, Eric Ridenour, told Hensley, adding that “loud” is in the ear of the beholder, as it were.
“A noise ordinance should be applied when you are disturbing people. I don’t care what time of the day or night,” Hensley said. “If I can’t talk (and be heard), I say it’s unreasonable.”
Hensley emphasized he is not against music; that he just objects to excessive noise: “If it’s so loud when I sit on my deck and I can’t talk to the person next to me, it’s too loud,” he said.
The town’s current noise ordinance carries the key words “reasonably prudent;” as in what an average person would consider to be excessively loud noises taking place between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The new language would read: “The playing of any musical instrument or electronic sound amplification equipment outdoors or from a motor vehicle, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., that can be heard from an adjoining property or at distance of greater than 20 feet from the sound source.”
Like Ridenour, former Assistant District Attorney and current Commissioner Chris Matheson cautioned her fellow board members that noise ordinances are difficult to enforce. She recommended they consider an “objective test,” such as using a decibel reader, which many towns already use.
Matheson, however, bowed to the new language stipulating an actual 20-foot distance after Police Chief Davis Woodard said that had been his recommendation and remained his preference.
Tori Walters, co-owner of the Soul Infusion Tea House and Bistro, the restaurant on N.C. 107 that apparently sparked Hensley’s neighbors’ ire, said Monday the distance requirement would not “bother us at all.”
“We have worked diligently making sure that all the music played at our establishment is at reasonable decibel levels,” Walters said, adding that they ask musicians not to play after 10:30 p.m., a 30-minute cutoff prior to the town’s 11 p.m. requirement.
Noise ordinance public hearing
What: The town of Sylva is tightening its noise ordinance
When: July 7 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Town Hall