Does noise know what day of the week it is? That is the very question we are faced with after a head-scratching decision by Bluffton Town Council recently. Town staff made a recommendation for a new noise ordinance. This recommendation came after Town Council visited Calhoun Street on a Saturday night a few weeks earlier. Council's consensus was that the patrons were louder than the music, but neither was very loud once you left the property. Clearly, there was little noise.
Town Council members were then given a grid to identify what days of the week live music and outdoor amplified sound (radios, stereos, TVs) should be allowed. The grid also included the level of acceptable decibels at certain distances.
Incredibly, three council members voted to ban live music Sunday through Wednesday. One supported live music seven days per week and another member supported every day but Sunday. Mayor Lisa Sulka, Councilwoman Karen Lavery and Councilman Fred Hamilton proposed banning live music except on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We could have a ban on live music four days per week.
The definition of noise is simple -- it is unwanted sound. The decibel readings and distances proposed by Town Council members seem very reasonable: about 60 decibels at 250 feet, which is similar to human conversation.
Had they stuck to just that, I think everyone would have been happy. But now that they have strayed into defining the source of noise, no one is happy.
Joanie D. Iaco