A push for more restrictive noise rules throughout the city is making its way to Asheville City Council’s Public Safety Committee this afternoon, March 26. One proposal, from a member of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods, seeks changes to Asheville’s rules, such as designating singing, musical instruments, and “noisy parties” after 10 p.m. as potential nuisances.
The committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in the training room on the 4th floor of the Municipal Building. So far, there’s no exact wording for the possible changes. The committee’s recommendations will form the basis for city staff to put together any rule changes.
But some community members already have an idea of what they want to see. In an email to fellow CAN members, David Rodgers declares that “after years of being woken by late night parties in my residential neighborhood, I, along with many other citizens in Asheville, are seeking to have a couple of simple changes made to the noise ordinance.”
Specifically, those changes would declare a specific time when “night” begins and a list of noises restricted during that time.
“Our current ordinance does not define when night begins and noises need to cease,” Rodgers writes. “We rely on a ‘reasonableness’ standard. What seems reasonable to college students is not to those with children that have to get up the next morning for school and to head off to work. Parties were routinely held outside at 10, 12, 2 in the morning and later. When the police were called, they each had their own views on what time of night or morning it was ‘reasonable’ to be outside partying. We need clearly defined limits.”
As an example of what those limits would look like, Rodgers includes a section of Chapel Hill’s noise ordinance, which lays out a long list of possible nuisance noises including “yelling, shouting, whistling or singing,” as well as “noisy parties” and “sound amplification equipment, television or musical instrument,” among others.
As for when night begins, Rodgers asserts that the time should be 10 p.m., as he believes that fits with people with early schedules.
“Children and adults in our single family residential neighborhood go to bed at or before this time in order to get up early to head off to work and school,” he writes. “On the weekends there are many of us that still head off to work early in the mornings and many children go to bed early on weekends in order to get up for their sports or other events.”
But at least one Council member on the committee has expressed reservations about the proposals. In an email reply, Council member Gordon Smith, noting that “noise issues are very complicated, and it looks like there’s room to improve the current standards,” said the more restrictive rules could be unfair to those with different schedules:
I believe we also need to take into account:
1) The needs of those who have other types of schedules. How do noises like lawnmowers, leafblowers, loud music, etc. affect the thousands of service workers in our community who may be asleep during the mornings? Valuing folks with 9 to 5 jobs over others doesn’t seem equitable.
2) The possibility of revising our current process to ensure more timely response to those who are nuisances. The current Noise Ordinance Review Board has issued multiple fines this year for nuisance noisemakers. It may be that improvements to this system can address the needs of those raising the issue. I believe the process is underutilized.
3) The cultural implications of classifying singing as a “nuisance noise”.
4) Exceptions for those who don’t find the noises a nuisance. When the band next door to me practices until 11pm, I enjoy it. I’d hate to make that illegal.
5) Moving from a complaint-based system to one that removes subjectivity may create a host of unintended consequences.
6) Would the same rules apply in all parts of the city? There are very different community standards in various areas.
“Working towards a more civil society that accommodates a diversity of cultural preferences is always a challenge, especially in a city that is becoming more dense and urbanized,” Smith concludes. Council members Cecil Bothwell and Jan Davis also sit on the three-person committee.