Franklin passes noise ordinance

After months of trying to figure out the best way to address late-night partying that was disturbing residents, the Franklin Town Council unanimously passed a noise ordinance.

The ordinance makes it unlawful to create, cause or allow the continuance of any “unreasonably loud, disturbing or frightening noise,” particularly during the nighttime, since it interferes with residents’ reasonable use and enjoyment of their properties.

While the ordinance does not establish any kind of decibel restrictions like many governmental ordinances, it does prohibit a number of loud noises that could be considered a nuisance if the sound is continuous or happening during nighttime hours.

Specifically prohibited are horns and signaling devices; operating a motor vehicle without a muffler or other device that prevents loud or explosive noises; exterior loud speakers; operating power equipment at night; the use of explosives like firearms and fireworks; security alarms sounding for more than 20 minutes after law enforcement is notified; motor vehicle speakers exceeding a certain sound level and musical instruments or sound amplification equipment that can be heard from an adjoining property at a distance of 20 feet or more from the source.

The ordinance also includes a number of exceptions to the long list of rules. Sound coming from a regularly scheduled outdoor athletic event on school campuses within the town limits and sound from festivals and parades is allowed. Construction operations between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends is also allowed for projects with a proper building permit.

The ordinance also allows for lawful noise that accompanies holidays or religious ceremonies, which can include fireworks on the Fourth of July, firearm discharge for military ceremonies and church bells ringing.

Homeowners will be allowed to operate their lawnmowers, agricultural equipment and other landscape maintenance equipment between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

To address the late-night parties that were happening in town limits and disturbing nearby residences, the ordinance makes it unlawful for any person or group of people to willfully make or continue any “loud, raucous and disturbing noise.”

The “loud, raucous and disturbing noise” is defined as any sound that because of its volume level, duration and character annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, health, peace or safety of reasonable people of ordinary sensibilities within the town limits.

The ordinance will be enforced on a complaint-driven basis, meaning law enforcement won’t be out searching for violations. If someone makes a complaint to the police department, an officer will come out to investigate the complaint. Anyone found in violation of the ordinance can be charged with either a civil fine or with a criminal misdemeanor. Residents can be issued a warning citation, followed by a monetary fine for violating any provision of the ordinance. A criminal misdemeanor may be charged if the violator doesn’t pay the fine.

The entire ordinance can be read at www.franklinnc.com.

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