With Mayor Mike Inscore casting a rare tiebreaking vote, the Wilkesboro Town Council on Monday approved a revised sound ordinance addressing noise generated in town limits and amplified sound in the downtown central business district.
As approved, the revised ordinance allows the use of sound-amplifying equipment in the downtown area from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. It also prohibits the creation of “unreasonably disturbing noise” at any time within town limits.
Seth Cohn, co-owner of Dooley’s restaurant and Two Boros Brewery on Main Street, asked the council during the meeting to allow amplified sound from noon to 8 p.m. instead.
“This is another kind of jab at small businesses on Sunday trying to open and maintain business,” said Cohn. He also said he understood the need for a sound ordinance.
Cohn was allowed to speak even though the council review of the updated ordinance didn’t require a public hearing. The council first discussed it during a work session and regular meeting on March 2.
The ordinance prohibits amplified sound in the downtown from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and before 2 p.m. and after 8 p.m. on Sundays. The prior version of the ordinance had the prohibition starting at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and ending at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
Councilman Russ Ferree made the motion to accept the ordinance as presented and noted that the council “can use common sense at any time to amend it.” Councilman Jimmy Hayes joined Ferree in voting for its passage.
Council members Nellie Archibald and Andy Soots voted against Ferree’s motion. Archibald said enforcement of the ordinance would be cumbersome and arbitrary.
Inscore broke the 2-2 tie with an affirmative vote, but made no comment.
The main point of contention was amplified sound in the downtown central business district, on both sides of Main Street from the First National Bank building at 301 West Main Street to the Great State Auction Co. building at 104 East Main Street.
The ordinance said that in determining if noise is unreasonable or disturbing, the police chief and/or town manager or designee would consider proximity of the sound to residential areas, when it occurs, its duration and the land use, nature and zoning of the occurrence.
Town Manager Ken Noland said, “Ultimately it’ll be the responsibility of myself and the police chief to make a determination. We’re going to do our best, and we may not make everyone happy, but we’ll do our best to find compromises that everybody can live with.”
Town-sanctioned outdoor events, such as MerleFest and Concerts in the Commons summer series, are exempt from the sound ordinance because they’re beneficial to community morale, business growth and enjoyment of public spaces, said Andrew Carlton, Wilkesboro director of planning and community development, at the March 2 meeting.
Also exempt from the sound ordinance are outdoor school and playground activities, such as school athletic and entertainment events.
The ordinance says public outdoor events on town property such as the Carolina West Wireless Community Commons require permits approved by the council, which will consider if an event “provides a benefit to the public at large which exceeds the possible detrimental effects of the noise the event may generate.”
The ordinance prohibits the “creation and continuation of any loud, disturbing and unnecessary noises.” Also prohibited is the operation of “noise-generating equipment, tools and devices” between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., which Carlton noted is “a little more restrictive than we currently have.”
Carlton added on March 2, “It is important to note that as the Commons, downtown and restaurants continue to grow, we’re going to have a lot more of these town-sanctioned events brought to” the council for approval.
Also on March 2, Inscore referred to the sound ordinance as a “balancing act between quality of life and the utilization of our downtown and the Community Commons.”
Carlton earlier said the revised ordinance was drafted by town planning department staff after consulting with Police Chief Craig Garris and N-Focus, a Kannapolis-based planning consultant.
“We tried to keep this very simplistic and to the point,” he said of the two-page document. “It’s important to note this (applies) only to the corporate limits” and not the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.