Friday, August 10, 2007

Noisy Neighbors

We’re lucky. At least thus far! We live on five acres at the moment and we’re surrounded by five-acre tracts. We have neighbors on all side, a few with children, but many are much older than we are and have lived here since before we were born. It’s a fairly quiet neighborhood with lots of wildlife and woods.

When the new folks behind us started clearing the back half of their land we were a little concerned. They wiped out all the trees, pretty much razed the area and made what appeared to be paths at first. What if they were putting in a dirt bike track? Would the wonderful silence we enjoyed be marred by the revving of motorcycles or dirt bikes? Would the wild turkeys still come walking across the property with their new chicks in tow? Would the deer steer clear? When our granddaughters came to visit would their naps be interrupted by roaring engines? Would we have to walk to the front of the house to hold a conversation on the phone at times? What about our good friends who occasionally brought their autistic child over? He has a difficult time with noises.

Many in Fayette County have had that nightmare happen in recent years. New neighbors moved in who wiped out paths and wiped out their peaceful way of life. Dinners interrupted. Naps disturbed. Windows that used to stay open kept closed to try and bar some of the noise. No more sitting on the back porch swing watching the hummingbirds.

We were lucky. No bikes, nothing that disturbed our peaceful neighborhood.

The previous Fayette County Commission spent a considerable amount of time not too long ago researching noise ordinances across the country when complaints started coming in from three areas with new or fairly new bike tracts. Multiple bikes were roaring at odd times destroying neighbors quality of life. The Commission crafted a well-researched, well-thought-out ordinance that would allow those with dirt bikes to ride, yet would protect the lifestyle of their neighbors.

By adding a muffler the bikers could ride to their hearts content without hitting the 55 decibel threshold. Or, if they chose not to add a muffler, they could stick to the middle of their property and chances were in most cases the noise level wouldn’t hit the nuisance level.

Some aren’t willing to buy mufflers. Some properties are such that they must ride on the boundaries of the property.

Now it seems that one of the bikers who didn’t like the compromise has found a willing ear or two on the current County Commission. They are looking at changing the noise ordinance to take care of the dirt bike riders.

Why? It could just be that these new guys are just that --- new. They are in a rush to make all kinds of changes before they’ve even figured out how things really work.

Another possibility is that every citizen who ever had a vote go against them is now bending the ears of the new guys. Maybe they were angry because the noise ordinance didn’t go their way. Maybe they wanted a piece of property zoned and were denied. They supported those who ran against the ones who turned them down, now they’re looking for payback.

Or, is it being pushed through by Commissioner Herb Frady? It appears that every vote Frady lost is now being brought up again. Is this just another in a series of vote and policy reversals, or attempted reversals, that have been happening since January 1st? We’ve seen the issue between the Shenadoah and Highland Hills subdivisions brought up, sewer from Peachtree City into the county, the zoning request for the property on Ebenezer Church Road, the firing of Chris Venice (County Manager) and Bill McNally (County Attorney), the list goes on and now includes the noise ordinance.

People have a right to enjoy their property. People have the right to ride dirt bikes. I’ve ridden a few in my lifetime. However, my rights and those of the bikers, stops at the edge of our property. When the noise travels across that property line and destroys or seriously infringes on the rights of neighbors it’s reasonable to expect a remedy.

During the recent meeting where the Commissioners discussed the noise ordinance some ideas were tossed out. Limiting the time when they could ride bikes. It can’t be during school hours because most of the riders are probably school age. Should it be during the kids nap time? During dinner? What about the third-shift workers sleep time? Early Saturday morning when many people want to sleep in? During the time when kids are doing their homework? Should all the neighbors who were there first be polled to see if there’s a good time for excessive noise?

Why not use mufflers? Why not try to get along with the folks who were there first? If a bike track moved in behind us, how easy would it be for us to sell our property? Would we have to disclose the disturbance? Would our property values decrease? Why bring this back up?

At least one of the Commissioners lives on a huge tract of land. He could solve the problem simply by inviting them to come ride on his property. Oops, I bet the neighbors would complain.

View the County Commission as Commissioner Eric Maxwell brings the item up for discussion at the behest of Commissioner Herb Frady:

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