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Sylva officials get earful on noise ordinance; no action taken

The Sylva Herald & Ruralite of Sylva, North Carolina

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Whether a compromise can be reached for the ongoing noise dilemma between Sylva's No Name Sports Pub and the surrounding community remains to be seen. In the meantime, town leaders are hoping the issue can be resolved in a neighborly fashion, without them having to change the current noise ordinance.

Although there wasn't an agenda item to address the issue, people from both sides packed Town Hall Feb. 5 to voice opinions during the public comment session.

Previously, there have been sporadic complaints of loud music at the nightclub during late-night hours. Those few complaints were never enough to cause much of a stir; that is, until the issue came to a head during a January town board meeting.

At that time bar owner

Greg Fuller objected to the ordinance and argued that its language is vague, unfair and unenforceable. He suggested a new ordinance be written to provide a specific decibel limit for his business and others like it to adhere to.

Similar ideas were proposed last week."I would very much like to see the town of Sylva adopt a noise ordinance that balances the community's needs by presenting a quantifiable standard to hold all establishments equally accountable to," said Jason Kimenker, a former owner of Soul Infusion Tea House and Bistro on N.C. 107. "If that means investment in a decibel meter or some other form of audible measuring device, I would like to see that put into place so it doesn't leave both the town and enforcement liable to a discretion that may not be necessary if we can hold that meter up and determine that there is a violation."

Kimenker said during his time owning Soul Infusion there were several instances where he had to turn down the music after complaints.

The town's noise ordinance defines too loud as something a "reasonably prudent" person might object to hearing. The time frame is from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Three years ago, town leaders tightened the ordinance by adding a distance requirement - 20 feet from the sound source. The addition of a distance requirement stemmed from complaints from residents near Soul Infusion.

Adam Bigelow, an area musician, said he has heard air guns at nearby UPS while performing on stage at Soul Infusion."Any business should be held to the same standard," said Bigelow. "Your standard is 'reasonable person' ... if we line up 50 reasonable people representative of our community, they would have 50 different interpretations." It's arbitrary. It can be used to attack individual businesses," he said.

Drew Hooper, who gathered 51 signatures backing up recent complaints of loud music and thundering motorcycles at No Name after 11 p.m., wasn't sold that a decibel meter would be a viable solution.

He said the nightclub could simply quiet down when they see an officer outside holding up a decibel meter. Instead, Hooper said he'd rather see the town either find or construct a meter that would keep track of the nightclub's noise levels at all hours of the day - something that nobody could get into and adjust themselves.

Hooper also brought up how the noise can vary depending on what time of year it is."It's cold right now and there's nobody outside hollering. As soon as it gets to warm weather - spring, summer - it's going to turn right back up," he said.

Carl Queen lives about 200 yards down the road from No Name. He spoke at January's board meeting and also on Feb. 5. He said at times he has to turn the TV volume up to be able to hear it because of blaring music from the nightclub, even with all his doors and windows sealed and shut."That's far above and beyond the 20-foot distance," said Queen. "I don't understand why the music has to be that loud. If it's so loud it hurts you, what's the point?"

Following the public comment period, Mayor

Maurice Moody thanked everyone for showing up and said the board will consider their feedback. Both the town board and several community members who spoke expressed interest in trying to resolve the issue without any formal action "At this point, there are no plans to change the ordinance," said Moody.

Town board member Lynda Sossamon said Ned Mills, the owner of the No Name property, told her No Name is the best tenant he's ever had - they pay their bills and take care of the facility.

"I would also like to see a mutual respect," said Sossamon. "I would invite you to maybe consider meeting some other demographics and their bookings. Maybe there could be some acts at different hours that might invite other demographics to frequent your place and enjoy your food." "I think this could turn into a win-win if we all give each other grace," she said."Whatever decision the town board makes, it will affect the future of economic investment in our community," said Kimenker. "I know that there are several local businesses that are paying close attention to what the town board is doing right now and will do in the future as to whether they want to invest here and create new jobs and opportunities."

In other business, town board members:

Held a public hearing on issuing a conditional use permit to Webster Enterprises to expand its sewing division into, the former Ashley Building on Harold Street. A report from the county planning department was presented that outlined zoning requirements and indicated the building is in good shape.

Town board members approved the conditional use permit with the addition of a sidewalk landscape buffer Voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting the reinstatement of North Carolina's Historic Preservation Tax Credit Programs.

The resolution recognizes Sylva's historic structures as a unique way to differentiate the town from other communities and supports efforts to preserve the buildings.

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Original Publication Date: February 12, 2015

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