Maggie Valley doesn’t usually spring to mind as the noisiest of places in Haywood County. It’s a place known more for its pastoral mountain setting and quaint old-time kitsch than bustling nightlife.
But a spate of protests have prompted town staff to reconsider their rules on noise, which could put a damper on bands looking to spice up the valley’s evening offerings.
Currently, Maggie Valley has a noise ordinance that goes by use, time and actual loudness.
If you’re a business, nothing over 65 decibels until 11 p.m. on weekdays. That number goes down to 60 from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. On weekends, you can crank it up to 75 decibels until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. on Sunday.
A new standard being put forth by town leaders knocks down the weekend level to a top volume of 70 on weekends and holidays, and cuts the hours back to 10 p.m. on weekdays.
Some business owners in the valley, however, say it’s just not prohibitive enough.
At a town board meeting last week, Carol Burrell, who manages the Creekside Lodge, complained that bands playing across the street were loud enough to easily drown out her own music.
“The decibel level of 70 still is too excessive,” said Burrell. “This is hurting my business and it needs to be lower than 70. I just don’t need to be listening to someone else’s music in my home.”
Others in the crowd countered that live music was bringing much needed tourists and revenue to Maggie Valley, which suffered with the closing of the Eaglesnest and Carolina Nights, two event venues that once brought live acts to the valley.
Police Chief Scott Sutton, who has been researching and working on the ordinance for the town, sympathized with business owners resenting the need to cover their ears but emphasized that the new rule was still a work in progress.
“We try to work with the businesses, and we try to work with the residents, but when you get a business that’s pushing the limits, that’s where you get where we are today,” said Sutton. “All we’re asking is a little time to do some research.”
To those accusing the town of over-strictness and regulating away customers, Sutton pointed out that Maggie Valley is not on the strictest end of the spectrum.
“I‘ll be honest, our ordinance, as strict as we think it is in some ways, it’s not as strict compared to other places,” said Sutton.
In Waynesville, for instance, the upper decibel level is 60 without a permit. Even with a permit, the high water mark is 70, and only before 11 p.m. on Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Anyone wanting to amplify their sound outside must get a permit, no matter how soft the sound.
Sylva won’t allow any noise that can be heard at all 20 feet from its origin after 11 p.m.
Of main concern in Maggie Valley are the very few bars in town that offer late night options and outdoor music, though Sutton noted at the meeting that the cooling weather may take care of the problem before the ordinance this season.
While motel manager Burrell said she doesn’t object to having live entertainment in Maggie Valley, having it in her house or her guests’ rooms is quite another matter. The fix, she said, is simple.
“Come into my motel rooms and come into my home, and have them turn it down until I can’t hear it.”