Last Tuesday the Chilton common council voted to amend the city’s noise ordinance following an incidence where a noise citation from approximately a year ago was overturned in a legal appeal. According to precedent from a case that took place in 1991, Chilton’s ordinance was too vague to hold up in a court of law.
Chilton’s legal counsel, attorney Derek McDermott, informed the public safety committee and later the common council that two things needed to be changed to fix the ordinance: the word unreasonably must be added to the ordinance and an instance of the word “or” needed to be changed to “and.”
The modified ordinance reads, “No person shall make or cause to be made any loud, disturbing and unnecessary sounds or noises such as may tend to unreasonably annoy or disturb another in or about any public street alley or park or any private residence.
The common council was split on this matter: between those who wanted the ordinance updated after further revision and those who wanted a working ordinance in place at the earliest opportunity.
Council members raised a valid point that industrial applications require machinery specifically rated to a decibel volume and are put at risk when expanding in the city if there are no guidelines in place.
We agree that this is a valid concern, and likely will require further consideration.
And we cannot claim complete independence from the matter. One of the raised concerns for the amended ordinance were newspaper posting fees. We can assure you that posting fees for an ordinance of approximately 100 words are not significant.
However we would argue that the lack of an enforceable noise ordinance is a burden on the citizens of Chilton. This is especially true as the establishment that challenged the citation would have had no further incentive to limit late night music that reportedly was shaking windows at 2 a.m.
What was the Chilton Police Department going to do, issue another citation?
The amended ordinance is only materially different from the existing ordinance in its ability to stand up to challenges in court. This is a code that had served the city well in years past and would continue to do so, at least in Jaeckel’s words “taking care of commercial and residential” interests.
Industrial noise concerns are a separate issue. They can be dealt with independently.
Clearly Chilton’s civic leaders felt this law was important enough to their citizens to enact it. In addition to future ordinance violators, there is at least one establishment with a history of problematic noise and little incentive to control said noise.
We applaud Chilton common council member Mark Willems’ work representing the business owner in need of decibel guideline from his ward Willems spoke to the council regarding. And we understand committee members’ uncertainty about applying a slapdash solution without fixing the entire problem.
However we support Mayor Rick Jaeckel’s decision to break the tie and approve the amendment.
-Editorials are the opinion of the Times Journal Staff