Maggie noise ordinance changes — again

By Stina Sieg | Jan 17, 2012

At its most recent meeting, the Maggie Valley Board of Alderman decided to tweak the town’s recently changed noise ordinance, though it’s unclear if the move will quell or incite further controversy.

Tensions were running high for many in the meeting’s typically full audience last Tuesday night, when all aldermen but Saralyn Price voted to address when outdoor music can be played. For the first time, specific hours for outdoor music were set, with longer hours allowed for acoustic music. This changes the measure that was approved in November 2011 by the previous board. The past changes did not mention outdoor music in particular but did lower times and decibel levels for noise in general.

The newest incarnation of the measure states that amplified outdoor music is allowed from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, while acoustic music is allowed from noon to 10:30 p.m. Amplified outdoor tunes are also allowed from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, while the acoustic variety can go from noon to 11 p.m. On Sunday, amplified outdoor music is now relegated to noon to 6 p.m., and acoustic outdoor music can go from noon to 9 p.m.

The maximum allowed decibel levels decided in November still stand. When measured 10 feet from a business’ property line, decibels must never exceed 65 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday. On Friday and Saturday, 70 decibels are allowed at businesses from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday 70 are allowed from 1 to 6 p.m. All other times, the max decibel level stands at 60.

Mayor Ron DeSimone said that the board is trying to “strike a balance” with the changes and explained that further changes could be made before everything is ironed out.

“We’d like to try this out,” he said, adding, “There are a lot of issues that are coming into play here.”

He was alluding to the controversy that began last summer when a group of Maggie motel owners approached the board about loud music from nearby bars and restaurants. Following an investigation by Maggie Valley Planning Director Nathan Clark and Police Chief Scott Sutton, new hours and decibel levels were recommended to the board of aldermen, which approved the changes. This did not stop the firestorm of controversy that accompanied the ordinance, however. Many bar and restaurant owners thought the measure had gone too far, while some residents and hotel owners believed it did not do enough.

Carol Burrell, manager of the Creekside Lodge, was one of a few business owners who spoke passionately at the meeting about wanting the ordinance to do more than it currently does. Her opinion, which she has been stating at meetings for months, is that if she can hear any music from another establishment while inside her motel, then the music is too loud.

“My guests are hearing music. Do you think they’re going to stay for another night’s stay?” she asked the board rhetorically. “No.”

In response to such comments, Price, the only one who did not vote in favor of the most recent changes to the ordinance, stressed that since the last changes were implemented, Chief Sutton hasn’t fielded any noise complaints.

Alderman Mike Matthews spoke of finding a “happy medium” that he hoped would take care of both sides of the issue. While he voted in favor of the current changes to the ordinance, he made it clear that he believed lowering the times too much for music would hurt Maggie.

“It would destroy business if we shut everything down at 6 p.m.,” he said.

The strongest words of the night did not come from an alderman or business owner, however, but a local resident who has become a fixture at Maggie meetings. Cheryl Lambert, who lives on Teagues Loop, broke down while addressing the board about the ordinance, which she thinks must do more. With tears in her eyes, Lambert explained that the music is so loud at night that she and her husband can’t hold a conversation, watch TV or sit on their porch without being bothered, despite a concrete wall they’ve build to block the sound. It’s become so bad, she said, that they’ve tried to sell their house but can’t find a buyer because of the noise.

“You all are our last hope,” she said to the board. “We have to live our lives every night with that music. And no one cares except the people who live on that street.”

While the aldermen went back and fourth with Lambert for a few minutes, the most memorable response to her pleas came from Mike “Stony” Caldwell, a local resident who ambled up to her as he explained that when he’s using power tools, he doesn’t like the sound either but he knows to use earplugs. Exactly where the longtime local stood on the issues that night was hard to tell, but he definitely made an impression.

“Music made Maggie Valley,” he nearly shouted. “Ask Raymond Fairchild.”

Then he gave his earplugs to Lambert and left.