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Lampasas County looks into noise ordinance

February 23, 2010

Lampasas County looks into noise ordinance

By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald

LAMPASAS – A handful of homeowners from unincorporated parts of Lampasas County came to the courthouse Monday. They were unhappy with county responses to noise complaints, but they applauded when commissioners agreed to look into creating a countywide noise ordinance.

After listening to two residents at their meeting Monday morning, commissioners unanimously approved tabling the issue and directed the county attorney to draft a noise ordinance for the county. Lampasas County Sheriff David Whitis suggested the court look at ordinances in other counties in the meantime. While cities can enact noise ordinances, the county currently has none and must defer to state law. In cases outside city limits, noise must be higher than 85 decibels to be considered “unreasonable noise” under state law, Whitis said.

“That’s about the noise level of one of our sirens, so you can imagine how loud that has to be,” Whitis said.

The remaining question is whether or not the county has the authority to create an ordinance and set a lower public nuisance standard than the state, County Attorney Larry Allison said.

“I’m not saying for sure, but I don’t know that we have the authority to set lower standards for noise levels,” Allison said. “We just have to find express authority.”

The city of Lampasas enacted its noise ordinance in March 2005, City Manager Michael Stoldt said. That ordinance limits noise in residential areas to 70 decibels during the day and 63 decibels at night. The limit for other industrial and commercial areas of the city is 85 decibels.

Terry Lowe, who owns property on County Road 4330, told the court that he can hear the bass of music at his neighbors’ home from his living room 400 yards away, but sheriff’s deputies have been unable to do anything about it. The highest noise measured at his property line was around Christmastime, when deputies measured the noise at 79 decibels, he said.

“This has been going on for eight months until 2 or 3 in the morning,” Lowe said. “We need to enact something because I am at my last thread with ‘we can’t do anything, sir.'”

Another county resident, Lea Kenyon, said one problem she and her husband, Kevin, have at their home on County Road 3210 relates to where the decibel measurement can be taken.

Kenyon said when she called to complain of motorcycle noise, the decibel measurement when authorities arrived was taken inside her house where the level was within legal limits.

“At the place where my horses were terrified, deputies agreed with me that it would have been at least 100 decibels,” she said.

Whitis said he is familiar with the problem and the volume of calls the sheriff’s office receives for noise complaints, usually due to loud music and motorcycle noises. If the noise is less than 85 decibels, Whitis said the only thing deputies can do is request it be turned it down.

“I feel for these people, and we’re caught in the middle. We have to equally dispense justice,” Whitis said, addressing commissioners.

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