Saluda looks to change noise ordinance, increase fines

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SALUDA – The City of Saluda is looking to change its noise ordinance as well as to possibly increase the fines associated with violations.

Saluda City Council met Monday, June 10, with commissioner Mark Oxtoby adding the noise ordinance to the agenda.

Oxtoby said there have been issues of the police asking music to stop at 11 p.m., as the noise ordinance dictates, and the music being turned back on after the police left. Oxtoby also said he thinks the current $25 penalty means nothing to people and said measuring noise by decibels is not giving the city what it wants.

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Following discussion, the city’s noise ordinance fine is actually $50, but others agreed that isn’t enough either.

City manager Jonathan Cannon said he was thinking the city should begin addressing the source of noise instead of the volume of noise. Cannon said the board sets quiet hours and if there is a band that is heard outside of a building after those hours, then an officer can address it no matter how loud it is.

Saluda Mayor Fred Baisden said the city also needs to address air compression brakes.

Saluda has been discussing the need to amend its noise ordinance and has for months been taking decibel readings in different areas of the city.

On the fines, city attorney Jana Berg said the low fee would not be enough of an economic deterrent, and bands being paid to perform would still make money for playing. She suggested a $250 fine  for the first offense. Berg also said if the city has people who repeatedly violate the ordinance the city could take them to court as a public nuisance.

“I do not think a ($50) fine is sufficient to deter them,” Berg said.

The current noise ordinance is located in number 34 of the city’s book of ordinances along with other violations. It is not currently included in the city’s schedule of fees. Commissioners discussed taking the noise ordinance out of number 34 and making noise violations separate and becoming more specific.

Commissioners also asked if a public hearing is required to make changes.

Berg answered that a public hearing is not required but the city can put it on a meeting agenda that the city is considering a change to its noise ordinance and the public is welcome to attend. It can be done by drafting changes, putting it on the agenda, discussing it and voting on it, Berg said.

Cannon and Berg were directed to draft amendments as well as draft regulations for air compression brakes. The amendments will be brought back at a future council meeting.

At the end of the discussion, some commissioners said how loud noises from downtown have been this summer.

“When I’m sitting in my house with my windows up and I can’t hear my TV for the music downtown, that’s too loud,” commissioner Leon Morgan said.

Oxtoby added that police officers have better things to do than to go tell people it’s 11 p.m. and they should turn the music off. He also said it’s disrespectful to turn it back on after officers tell someone to turn it off.

Nettie Sweet asked that the quiet time in the city begin at 10:30 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. Most commissioners said they think 11 p.m. is realistic.