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Upshur County resident Sandra Lancaster addressed commissioners about excessive noise in her neighborhood Thursday morning.

Upshur resident requests countywide ordinance to address neighborhood noise

BUCKHANNON – An Upshur County resident requested the adoption of a countywide public nuisance ordinance following issues with excessive noise in her neighborhood.

Community member Sandra Lancaster attended Thursday’s Upshur County Commission meeting to request the ordinance be drafted.

“Thank you for allowing me to speak to you today,” Lancaster said. “I’ll be honest, I don’t want to be here. I’d much rather be out playing golf in the in the snow, but I had to do something to retain the quality of life that I feel we deserve as taxpayers in Upshur County.”

Lancaster said she and her family have had several incidents with their neighbors, who continually play loud music. She said her family lives outside the bounds of the City of Buckhannon in an area adjacent to the Middle Fork River.

“I know that a noise ordinance is not going to take away these bad neighbors,” Lancaster said. “I’m not going to make them good, respectful neighbors, but maybe the sheriff’s office can support and protect us and hopefully prohibit disturbing the peace that we and our neighbors are subjected to as property owners.”

“They’re only interested in having large parties with extremely loud music and of course, the partygoers get louder as the music volume increases,” she added.

Lancaster said she’s talked to several other Upshur County community members, and most didn’t know there isn’t a countywide noise ordinance.

“We cannot believe that we are subjected to these conditions with no help from law enforcement,” she said. “Almost everyone, even an officer and my doctor, have told me that we should go out and play loud music when they have to get up early, but we’re not those kinds of people. This is something that we are just not willing to do.”

While there’s no countywide noise ordinance in effect, the City of Buckhannon’s Ordinance 365 places limitations on noise in dwellings. According to the ordinance, no one is permitted to play music, instruments or other forms of media loud enough for the sound to be “plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more from the property line” of the lot on which the dwelling is built.

Lancaster said she has tried talking to her neighbors to no avail.

“We did not want to war with our neighbors and have on numerous occasions tried to work out a solution,” Lancaster said. “They are unwilling to turn the music down and even refused to turn the bass down so that our house doesn’t thump constantly, all night until two o’clock in the morning.”

Lancaster said she realizes other people in the county do not need an ordinance.

“I know that most people in your county don’t need an ordinance and they have respectful neighbors,” Lancaster said. “I’m jealous of those people; I personally have never met anyone like my neighbors.”

She said the ordinance is necessary because even if they call the police regarding the noise, law enforcement officers are unable to really do anything.

“The police can go out and say, ‘hey, turn your music down.’ They can’t enforce it if people don’t want to because they don’t have to and that’s because there’s no noise ordinances,” Lancaster said. “In most cases, if you told your neighbor that their music was keeping you from sleeping or hearing the TV, they would apologize and turn it down …. not my neighbors, they say ‘no’ and turn it up and start yelling louder over the music.”

She said on some occasions, it isn’t just the neighbors, but also the people attending their parties.

“Usually, there’s 10 to 100 people in their yard,” Lancaster said. “They invite these people from where they used to live and stay all weekend, sometimes a week,” Lancaster said. “We try to be good neighbors, but since they moved here full time this summer, the partying has become more frequent. In hindsight, we should have acted in 2008 when they bought the property and the loud music started.”

She said the stress from dealing with their neighbors has had a negative impact on her health.

“Personally, the living conditions in the past few months have affected my health and well-being,” Lancaster said. “I haven’t taken blood pressure medicine in three years, 16 days and 21 minutes because I quit smoking, because I didn’t want to take blood pressure medicine and my blood pressure was fine.”

Lancaster said that’s since changed.

“I went to the doctor two weeks ago and she said, ‘you’ve got to get back on blood pressure medicine,’ and I said, ‘it’s all because of the stress.’ I mean, I’m willing to give up cigarettes after 35 years, but I can’t do anything, and nobody can help me about some neighbors who are too loud.”

She said they are not looking for legal action to be taken, but she does want something to change.

“We don’t want to sue anybody, and we don’t want to have people arrested,” Lancaster said. “All we want is a quality of life that we think that we deserve.”

Upshur County Commissioner Terry Cutright said he is a member of the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia and that he would bring the matter up at their meeting in January.

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