Proposed Noise Ordinance Draws Concern
By JOSELYN KING
WHEELING — Ohio County Commissioner Zach Abraham thinks any noise ordinance imposed by the county must include one clause — that neighbors first discuss their issues before calling law enforcement.
Concerns about imposing a noise ordinance in unincorporated parts of Ohio County were sounded during Tuesday night’s commission meeting.
Abraham said he remembered as a youth he and family members picking up shot guns at 1 a.m. to shoot the foxes that were attempting to raid their chicken coops.
“I grew up on a farm, and there are noises that happen,” Abraham said. “This issue can be very subjective, and I am not one to limit freedoms.
“There has got to be respect among neighbors,” he added.
“That first has to be done. There first has to be conversation and understanding between the neighbors. If that doesn’t happen, you’re not going to solve it through an ordinance.”
There must be a way to “peacefully resolve” the issue without there being a statute, he added.
“I don’t know how you’re going to enforce it,” Abraham continued.
“I am not opposed to it, per se. But I am concerned that it (a noise ordinance) infringes on both sides at this point. I would rather people talk it out and have respect for one another, even if you don’t agree with them.”
Solicitor Don Tennant agreed a county noise ordinance would be unenforceable if there isn’t cooperation and respect between neighbors.
“Can we write that in there…that they have to talk first (before calling law enforcement)?” Abraham asked Tennant.
Scott Sonda of Grimes Ridge Road addressed commissioners at their July 26 meeting, telling of issues he was having with neighbors revving their off-road vehicles into the wee hours of the morning. He said he could hear the machines even though he lived a half mile away from his neighbor.
Sonda asked the county at that time if a noise ordinance for the county would be possible, and he asked Tuesday night the status of planning the statute.
Tennant said, since the last meeting, he had obtained copies of noise ordinances from other counties for review, and has selected one from Jefferson County, West Virginia to serve as a template.
He explained commissioners were still reviewing the ordinance he gave them, and that there could be some action on the matter (within a couple of meetings.)
At issue among the commissioners is whether or not the noise ordinance should pertain to a set time overnight, or rather it should be an around-the-clock statute, Tennant explained.
Sonda did praise some of his neighbors who were present at the meeting for keeping their noise level down during a recent pig roast on the property.
The neighbor, Alicia Medien, addressed commissioners and acknowledged some of the sounds from off-road vehicles Sonda hears are likely from her property.
“Yes, we were quiet this year,” she said. “But if something happens off of my property, I have no control. I asked people to leave with respect.”
Medien said her off-road vehicles still have their stock exhausts, and haven’t been modified to sound louder.
“We live in the country, and I feel my kids have the right to ride their bikes,” she continued. “They’re kids. They like to have fun.”
Another neighbor, Julie Cox, acknowledged she is the neighbor about whom Sonda is most complaining.
She asked commissioners if they had received many complaints about noise throughout the county, and if it were really a serious problem.
Commissioner Don Nickerson said he had received them “periodically,” while Abraham and Commission President Randy Wharton said they had received few to no complaints.
“In my opinion, if we receive one, that is too many,” Nickerson said.
Sheriff Tom Howard said his department get noise complaints “from all throughout the county.”
“Every neighbor has a hobby,” Cox said. “We have one that breeds dogs, and another that has a shooting range. That’s their thing. My family does motorsports.
“My kids are all national-level racers. We have a track on our property. He probably hears us through the valley everytime we fire one up. But isn’t it our right to have the ability to choose that sport and practice on our own property? It is.”
Cox said the racing noise isn’t heard after hours “because you can’t do that in the dark.”
“I don’t feel there is a problem in our community,” she said. “I don’t see things happening at night. There are fireworks on occasion. People have parties. That’s when families and friends get together for celebrations. Having it every once in a while shouldn’t be a problem.”
Tennant told her, while they have a right to do legal things on their own property, if it raises to the level of being deliberate or disturbing others then it becomes an issue.
“We’ve spoken to Mr. Sonda many times, and I’ve felt like we’ve taken steps to be better,” Cox said. “We’re neighbors and we should respect each other.
“But I don’t want the dream of my children – one of whom has the chance to be a pro racer – to be taken away because he can’t train at home. We’re gone many weeks of the year doing what we do. It’s really not that often,” she explained.