Commissioner Doug Bush at Thursday's meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Commissioners explain their reservations about implementing a countywide noise ordinance

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission detailed why they would not implement a noise ordinance outside of city limits after a community member made a noise complaint.

The Upshur County Commission was scheduled to hear a request from community member Nelson Sayre to implement a noise ordinance in the county during their Aug. 24 meeting. Sayre did not appear during his scheduled appointment, so county administrator Tabatha Perry summarized her recent conversation with him.

“I recently spoke with Nelson on July 31; he did a call about a noise complaint that was happening within his neighborhood on the Old Elkins Road, and during that conversation, I scheduled for him to appear before the county commission today,” Perry said. “He wanted to know the procedures of attempting to get a noise ordinance implemented outside of corporate limits, but I have not heard from him since then.”

Perry said the county has heard several requests for noise ordinances in the past, but they have never been enacted for several reasons.

“We have discussed different noise complaints in 2017, 2019 and 2020, which range from complaints about barking dogs to fireworks, so we have conducted extensive research where we’ve reached out to other counties to see which counties adopted noise ordinances or nuisance ordinances,” Perry said. “We’ve reflected on the City of Buckhannon’s ordinance, and I did have some informal conversations with a current sheriff’s deputy, and he did explain to me it would be extremely difficult for one department to enforce such an ordinance.”

A noise ordinance would require the county to list several exemptions, such as outdoor equipment, including mowing, and they would have to determine how to measure decibels and particulars about lines of sight and how many feet each residence is from each other.

Upshur County Commissioner Doug Bush said he has talked to a commissioner from Barbour County who witnessed how hard it is to enforce a noise ordinance throughout an entire county.

“I informally met with a commissioner from Barbour County, and he said Wood County tried to do it, and they ran into all these problems [with] all the exceptions like barking dogs and chainsaws, and it turned into a quagmire,” Bush said. “It’s an example of counties trying to do the right thing but coming up with all these obstacles, so they were quick to nullify it.”

Upshur County Commissioner Sam Nolte said he has also heard from other county commissioners who had similar experiences.

“In our last conference with the (state) auditor’s office, there was another commissioner who tried to do the same thing probably 12 or 14 years ago; he said it was his first term and he said it was a nightmare,” Nolte said. “He said it all started with barking dogs. There were people from out-of-state who weren’t accustomed to hearing hunting dogs barking, and he said once they implemented it, it was a total nightmare because then noise complaints were coming out of the woodwork, and they had to figure out if something was too loud, like were [people] allowed to fire up a chainsaw? He definitely did not recommend going down that route.”

Commissioners did not vote on the request because no motions were made. 

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