Wednesday, November 30, 2022

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

THE PUBLIC ASKS: What keeps the sheriff from enforcing Alamance County’s noise ordinance?

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QUESTION: I want to know and understand how the Alamance County noise ordinance works. What does it take for the sheriff’s department to be able to enforce this ordinance? This past weekend my husband and I had to leave our home for three hours to get away from the loud music at a party on the street behind our home. Calling the sheriff’s department did not help one single bit. What gives?

ANSWER: Some residents may get the impression that Alamance County’s leaders have simply shut their ears to the noise complaints that they’ve received from the community. But the problem, according to the law firm that the county has retained to serve as its legal counsel, may have more to do with the rules that the county has on the books rather than its willingness to crack down on excessive noise.

Last week, Natalia Isenberg, an attorney with the Teague Campbell law firm, presented the county’s board of commissioners with some revisions and clarifications that she believes could put more of a bite into the county’s seemingly toothless noise regulations. Isenberg told the commissioners that these suggested changes should smooth out any bumps in the existing ordinance against “unreasonably loud, disturbing, and unnecessary noises.”

“The reason it’s important to clarify ordinances is because vague ordinances can be construed against the county,” Isenberg said when she pitched the recommended revisions to the commissioners last Monday, “and restrictions imposed by a government have to be reasonably calculated.”

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Isenberg went on to present the specific tweaks that she hopes will increase the efficacy of this ordinance – which, in theory, already addresses everything from loudspeakers and radios to construction activity and excessively shrills whistles and horns.

One of Isenberg’s more significant recommendations concerns an existing curfew for industrial activity, which presently runs from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Monday through Friday. Isenberg argued that the rule as it’s currently written may be unenforceable because of some Constitutional issues it raises.

Isenberg went on to suggest new wording for the curfew so that it would apply to “loud and unreasonable” noise from industrial activity rather than prohibiting the activity itself during the stipulated time period. She also suggested new hours for the curfew – beginning at 7:00 p.m. and extending to 6:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and all day on Sunday.

Isenberg informed the commissioners that, under state law, they can’t vote to amend an ordinance that carries criminal penalties at the same meeting that the proposed changes are broached. She said she would, therefore, present the revisions again at the board’s next meeting on June 6 – at which point, the commissioners will be able to act on her recommendations.

Isenberg went on to note that state law doesn’t require the commissioners to hold a public hearing before they revise the county’s noise ordinance. She added, however, that the text of the county’s noise ordinance itself mandates such a hearing, which means that the public will be able to weigh in before the commissioners vote on the proposed changes.


THE PUBLIC ASKS: Have a question about a matter of public record? Call The Alamance News at 228-7851; write to the newspaper at P.O. Box 431, Graham, NC 27253; or e-mail alamancenews@mail.com.

If it’s a topic in the public domain — a matter of public record, including issues of government, courts, etc. — we’ll try to find the answer and print it in ‘The Public Asks’ column. (Please furnish as much complete and specific information as possible.)

Note: Issues regarding businesses — including salaries, policies, and practices — are usually not matters of public record, unless they are the subject of governmental or regulatory action, a court suit, or law enforcement activity.

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