A noise discussion during the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting raised the question: is it time for Camden County to consider a noise ordinance to address noise complaints from those living near lakefront venues with outdoor entertainment?
County commissioners say determining what is noise and what appropriate levels are is a difficult task. A noise ordinance may not be the solution for the problem.
In a poll of the Camden County Commission, the Lake Sun asked "is a noise ordinance something that you, as a county commissioner, believe needs to be addressed with the number of lakefront venues with live music that are located within the county?
Here's what they had to say:
Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken:
Noise ordinances have the potential to be very problematic. First, there is some concern as to our authority to institute such an ordinance because of the fact that we are not the county building code official. These duties, as you are aware are handled by the fire departments where they exist. Secondly, the measuring of sound intensity, through a decibel meter, can vary greatly depending on certain conditions present at the discrete locations where it is required. It should be noted, that as a rule, higher frequency sounds have a tendency to register louder on a decibel meter, and lower frequency sounds (like the booming base notes we have all heard) tend to register much quieter than expected on the meter. Water drastically affects the accuracy of the measurement as sound has a tendency towards natural amplification as it travels across the surface. Large hills and rock walls have a tendency to reflect sound up into the atmosphere and be less obtrusive. In my opinion, it would probably be most prudent to administer sound level limits through CUP’s issued by the Planning Commission for the various sites, where needed, with specific procedures for how the readings are to be taken that are specific to each individual site.
Associate Commissioner Beverly Thomas:
I certainly understand the concerns of residents living close to venues that utilize music as part of their operations. All residents should be allowed to have “quiet enjoyment” of their own property. However a noise ordinance is probably not the best choice. Most noise ordinances are administered with the use of decibel meters. Sounds are changed so much just by location, especially when you add how sound carries across water. What may be too loud on one side of the property may not be on the side where the meter is being utilized. These results can be very subjective.
We are also looking at time as an element of how the music can be maintained to be better “neighbors”. This could be done by limiting outdoor music to cease at a certain time. I guess what this all means is that a noise ordinance is not currently being reviewed, which is not to say that it may be at some future time. What we are doing is requiring venues to develop and construct sound abatement structures to help keep noise contained within or close to the venue.
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Associate Commissioner Cliff Luber:
As the 2nd District Camden County Commissioner, I am aware that residential owners and businesses are in certain instances, neighbors with one another. As neighbors, it is preferred that they have a mutual respect for one another and work toward amicable solutions. The solutions being put forth in terms of requiring sound abatement measures to redirect sound are proven and affordable. This is a very minor problem at the lake with only two active situations currently. I am not in favor of a noise ordinance as they are too subjective. I would however, consider a decibel reading only after a business is allowed to install noise abatements measures, as a condition of the Conditional Use Permit (CUP). This gives the business owner the opportunity to make the necessary corrections that he feels is needed to operate his establishment, and the homeowner to evaluate and potentially benefit from the results of those abatement measures.