New and stricter limits on disturbing noises are set to take effect in the village of Pinehurst in December.
Village leaders have discussed strengthening Pinehurst’s nuisance ordinances since a raucous party in June at a home near the village center. On Tuesday, the Village Council approved amendments to the village’s municipal codes that clearly define allowable sound levels and spell out specific violation penalties.
Pinehurst’s rules regulating loud noise previously left a lot of room for interpretation, prohibiting activities that “a reasonably prudent person would recognize as likely to unreasonably disturb persons on adjacent property or in the vicinity.”
The amended ordinances specifically set maximum allowable noise levels at 40 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., as measured from nearby residential property, and 55 decibels at other times.
Those rules apply to musical instruments, amplifiers, recreational activities and business activity other than construction work permitted by the village.
The village hopes that, when they take effect Dec. 1, the new ordinances will be easier for police to enforce in the event that residents complain about noise.
“There’s going to be a collaboration process with the chief on whether this process is working,” said Councilmember Kevin Drum, who described the new rules as the first step on a “learning curve” for the village.
“Unreasonably loud, disturbing sound levels” aren’t a frequent complaint in the heart of Pinehurst. But the popularity of short-term rentals has local officials taking into consideration visitors who may behave in a less-than-neighborly manner.
The June incident took place on a Magnolia Road property well-known as a short-term rental, and resulted in numerous complaints from neighbors about loud music. About 75 people attended that party, a semi-professional affair, at the invitation of the renter and didn’t disperse until after 10 p.m.
Noise limits imposed in the new ordinance are based on World Health Organization guidelines.
“I think we’ve got it pretty well settled out to what everybody agreed was appropriate,” said Village Manager Jeff Sanborn.
“It’s possible that we’re going to find out through implementation, for example, that we’ve got the decibel limits about right and it works out fine … but it’s always the case that we’re looking for improvement.”
Only sustained noise levels qualify as “nuisance” violations. The new ordinance defines sustained noise as recorded for at least 10 seconds continuously at a volume in excess of what’s allowed. If intermittent, the sound would have to be recorded at last 15 times in a 60 second period.
The village is also introducing harsher penalties in an effort to make them effective even when a property is being rented out short-term for hundreds of dollars per night.
The $100 civil penalty for a first offense is double the current fine for nuisance ordinance violations. Violations at the same address within a 24-month period will be subject to penalties that climb by increments of $100, up to $500.
In the event of a large social gathering where multiple resident complaints result in a succession of police citations, each distinct visit from officers will be treated as a separate offense.
If violations are committed by someone renting a property from an off-site owner, the owner could also face civil penalties.
Councilmember Judy Davis suggested that language specific to remotely operated drones may eventually be worked into the same ordinance. But while restrictions on those devices, and how to enforce them, are still under consideration, Sanborn said that noise isn’t the chief issue.
“I think it’s appropriate to continue to have that discussion to figure out what an appropriate approach will be, but I don’t think it really ties to this,” he said.
“Privacy, I think, is the central concern.”