August 22, 2012
Commissioners delay action on noise ordinance after public hearing
By CATHERINE KOZAK
Dare County Board of Commissions delayed action on the proposed changes
to the county noise ordinance after a steady stream of about two dozen
people came to the microphone to speak against it at a public hearing
on Monday, Aug. 20.
were almost all Hatteras Islanders -- business owners, their employees,
contractors, fishermen, musicians, and wedding planners. And they
pleaded with Dare County to reconsider its proposal that could
technically ban music and loud laughter even during the
All who spoke were opposed to the amendments to the 30- or 40-year-old noise ordinance.
of the concern is over the acceptable decibel levels that are proposed
in the amended ordinance. Even during the day, the ordinance
calls for volumes no greater than 60 decibels, which is about the level
of a typical conversation. Even in industrial zones, daytime levels are
topped at 70 decibels.
Nags Head Casino would not have been allowed under this noise
ordinance,” Bonnie Williams told the board, referring to the historic
dance hall that had been across from Jockey’s Ridge.
from construction, fishing industry activities, lawn mowing, off-road
vehicles, airplanes, and community and sports events at public places
would be exempt.
But many of the speakers said such restrictions are not compatible with an economy that serves vacationers.
Sawyer, owner of the Froggy Dog Restaurant in Avon, said that there
have numerous noise complaints from a very small number of people since
he started having music on an outside deck on Friday nights.
“They’re tourists,” he said. “They’re there to have fun.”
mix of residential and commercial areas on the island makes it a
challenge to entertain visitors and give residents some peace, but
Sawyer urged the commissioners to be fair to everyone.
Representatives of the booming wedding industry were also worried that a restrictive ordinance could scare away brides.
Pullen, president of the Outer Banks Wedding Association, said that the
wedding industry employs about 4,000 people on the Outer Banks. Last
year, she said, there were 500 weddings held in unincorporated Dare
County, with each one having an average wedding day budget of $27,000.
Plus, each wedding has 50-200 guests, who all need to stay, eat and
One viral negative posting about partying noise restrictions on the Internet could equal financial devastation, she said.
“All this would take is one bride and one groom to put this on Facebook,” Pullen said.
speakers agreed the current ordinance on the books should be revised,
but they disagreed with the county’s proposal for changes.
Forman, co-owner of REAL Watersports in Waves, even submitted a version
for the board to consider that would focus on established quiet times
rather than decibel levels.
board agreed with a number of speakers that it would make sense to sit
down with the business community after the busy tourist season calms
down and hammer out a more workable alternative to bring back to the
board in the fall.
think we should bring it back up and straighten it out,” said
Commissioner Richard Johnson. “We’re just trying to get something here
that makes everybody happy.”
Johnson said the current ordinance is too subjective, leaving enforcement up to the whims of whomever objects to the noise.
“Take a look at what you’re operating under now,” he said. “We’re trying to protect you. We’re not trying to shut you down.”