Noise code creates a din
June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:33 PM
Local business interests laud a compromise, but others arent sold.
The City Council clapped their ears Wednesday and again pushed discussion on changing the citys noise ordinance to a later date.
The contentious ordinance, which regulates excessive noise and public disturbances, has lately pitted downtown residents wanting a good nights rest against stores and restaurants trying to conduct everyday business.
Some Winslow residents want early morning delivery trucks and nighttime revelry silenced. Business leaders, on the other hand, say residents living in the islands commercial core must accommodate a bit of bustle.
A good compromise has been made, said Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce Director Kevin Dwyer of the proposed changes to the ordinance. It keeps business flowing on Bainbridge Island.
But some councilors say the draft changes are ambiguous and too restrictive.
It creates too much opportunity for confusion, said Councilman Nezam Tooloee, who favors the current ordinance, which sets a decibel limitation on sound.
But police say they cant enforce the current rules. Officers lack the equipment and training for measuring decibels, police officials said.
And, in many cases, a loud party or delivery truck no longer exhibit excessive noise when police arrive, making citation difficult.
Its unenforceable, said Councilman Bill Knobloch. Weve tried it.
In response, the city early this year proposed restricting certain activities such as yelling in public streets, the use of horns, or frequent and repetitive sounds associated with vehicles during late night and early morning hours. But businesses and service providers protested, arguing that such a rule would halt garbage pickup and many deliveries.
The councils Community Relations Committee then proposed exceptions for the U.S. Postal Service, disposal and recycling companies and most the delivery of goods to licensed businesses.
While these changes made many business owners happy, Councilwoman Debbie Vancil objected, arguing that the ordinance would still restrict behavior during certain hours rather than noise. Instead, Vancil believes the ordinance should prohibit exceptionally disturbing noise.
Thats a rule Bainbridge Deputy Police Chief Mark Duncan says he can enforce.
We all know whats reasonable and unreasonable, he said to the council.
If we hear people talking at a restaurant at normal business hours, thats probably reasonable. If its 4 a.m. and someone cant sleep and noise is rattling their windows - thats probably unreasonable.
But Tooloee urged the council to steer clear of regulations that dont have quantifiable guidelines. Such approaches, he said, already frustrate many land owners attempting to interpret city land use codes.
We dont need to create more ordinances with that kind of ambiguity, he said.
Tooloee believes police should ratchet up efforts to use decibel measurement devices.
I dont find (it) credible that the police dont have noise meters, he said. My neighbor has a noise meter.
Noting that the versions of the amended measure had come before the council up to three times already, City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs questioned whether it has a future. She also stressed the burden on city staff who must research and redraft the ordinance each time proposed changes are requested by the council.
Councilman Kjell Stoknes then urged the council to move the ordinance along.
I dont want to take anymore of (city staffs) time, he said. Lets get something on the books and try it.
Tooloee strongly disagreed.
Its as though were saying we cant have a good law but heck, lets enact a bad law so we have it out of our hair, he said.
The council, by a five to two vote, decided to discuss the matter again in late June.