North Myrtle Beach City Council on Monday passed first reading of a revision to the city’s noise ordinance in an effort to crack down on disruptive music that can make bedtime difficult for the city’s full-time residents.
“I know in Cherry Grove they’ve had issues,” said councilor Hank Thomas. “Two o’clock in the morning they’re out there blazing away. This would solve at least that portion of the problem. This is a step in the right direction.”
The previous rule made it illegal to play a radio, phonograph and musical instrument between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. at such a volume “as to disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons in any dwelling, hotel, condo or other type of residence.”
The new revision makes it illegal to generate any sustained or repetitive noise, no matter the source, “that is audible beyond the property line between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when, in the opinion of the responding official, such noise is excessive, disrupting the peace, or disturbing the general public.”
The biggest difference is the new requirement that noise can't emanate beyond the property line of its source. It's "tighter and better-defined," said city spokesperson Pat Dowling.
And under the new rules, the definition of “excessive” is whatever the responding officer believes it be.
“It’s just like if you’re speeding down the highway and the cop decides that ‘hey, you’re going too fast’, and he turns on his radar and gives you a ticket,” said City Manager Mike Mahaney. “It’s officer judgement. If he gets a call and goes over there and you’re complaining because your neighbor is on his porch and he’s talking to his wife and it’s just a conversation, we’re not going to issue a ticket.”
Mahaney said under the ordinance, a police officer could respond to a caller’s residence, and if the officer deems the noise to be excessive, they would find the source of the noise and give the offender a warning. A second visit would mean a ticket. If an officer has to go a third time that night, “somebody’s going to jail. That’s the only way I know to end it.”
Last year, the city received over 2,000 noise complaints, said Mayor Marilyn Hatley, who added that the grievances also came from Barefoot Resort and other areas where homes and restaurants co-existed.
“When you have 2,000 complaints, from people who live here, then it’s time to take notice and do something," said Mayor Marilyn Hatley. "What we’re saying to our bar owners and restaurants that have music is that ‘you can still have music, but you’ve just got to take it inside.’ If you don’t, if you have it outside, make sure you’re not interrupting your neighborhood. That means toning it down.”
The new ordinance is just a trial, said Mahaney. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll propose something else.”
The ordinance requires one more reading to become law.