Wilmington City Council hears proposed changes to noise ordinance

Downtown Wilmington street (Photo: Jenna Kurzyna/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington City Council members are looking to change the city’s noise ordinance.

This morning, city council members heard a proposal from the City Attorney’s Office

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Meredith Everhart with City Attorney’s Office gave a noise ordinance presentation with the changes.

She said the new ordinance expands definitions, makes rules easier for officers and public to understand, updates prohibitions and exceptions. There is also a revised permit process for the factors for approval/denial and an added appeals process which they previously did not have.

Everhart said the definitions are alphabetical and they added key definitions for noise disturbances, necessary activity (emergency or something that can’t be helped), adjoining property, etc. They also removed outdated wording and references.

She said they added time constraints for construction, garbage collection, yard maintenance, domestic power tools, consolidated some prohibitions, and removed outdated prohibitions.

For exceptions, the city added time constraints for athletic events and outdoor concerts specifically where ordinances do not apply like Legion Stadium, UNCW, city parks, etc.
Between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., those places will not be cited during those hours. Before, the city had a lot of different times for different places. That is why they have changed the times for the entire ordinance to 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.

For sound levels, the ordinance says a sound level meter is not the only way to prove noise violation. An officer would explain the process when a sound level meter is used if a meter is available. Personal sound level meters will not be considered.

Everhart said the current sound level requirement chart is very detailed and difficult to enforce. The new chart is much easier to understand. The new ordinance says it does not matter if the noise is indoor, outdoor, weekends and weekdays anymore. Distance requirements have also been taken out.

Civil penalties are $200 for the first offense, $350 for the second offense, and $500 for the third offense. You can get multiple violations in one night and arrests are only allowed in certain circumstances.

The new ordinance also says permits are required for any outdoor entertainment or when inside sound is likely to exceed levels. The Police chief issues and denies permits. Appeals for denial go to city manager. The chief has authority to increase sound limits and times. Applicant must notify surrounding residents. Permits can be revoked for violation.

The violation can be to any responsible person. Property owners are liable for third or subsequent violations.

Appeals for noise violations must be filed within ten days and goes to the Chief. The city did not have an appeal process at all before.

The Attorney’s Office took recommendations from city council members for the proposal going forward. The Attorney’s Office wants council to vote on a proposal for the ordinance at the second City Council meeting in June.