By RACHAEL LONG
Town leaders on the Nolensville Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) voted to table an ordinance Thursday night which would have amended the town’s municipal code regarding noise levels.
The ordinance came after the Nolensville Police Department received numerous calls about high noise levels during functions of a local business, Wheeler’s Raid Distillery.
The amended ordinance would have changed previously held quiet hours to those between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., specified limitations to noise during the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and included specific limitations for noise volumes.
The amendment would have measured noise disturbances by decibel using an A-weighted device, according to the ordinance document.
The public comments period of Thursday’s meeting lasted roughly 45 minutes and featured several residents with concerns about the proposed ordinance.
Nolensville High School student Campbell Hatcher brought concerns before the board about the proposed noise ordinance. She’s a member of the school band and explained her concerns for the band’s ability to play music should the amended noise ordinance be adopted as written.
Mayor Jimmy Alexander was quick to assure her that the high school would not be affected by the proposed ordinance change.
“Let me assure you that no noise ordinance will shut down your band or the activities that happen over at Nolensville High School,” Alexander said. “Not even the football games, the baseball games, that’s off the table. You don’t have to worry about that.”
A longtime Nolensville resident Tara Brock also spoke on the issue, saying that the noise has become a nuisance at her home. Brock said she grew up in the home where she now resides on Stonebrook Boulevard.
“We’ve never had any problems with the previous businesses that have been in that space,” Brock said. “But that’s not been the case with Wheeler’s Raid Distillery… As time went on it got louder and louder and more invasive. We could hear the bass inside of our house with the windows closed.
“I’m all for people owning a business and making a living, but not when it disrupts my serenity and my enjoyment of my own home,” Brock said.
Another Stonebrook resident, Rebecca Barnes, disagreed with Brock and spoke to the board about her own concerns surrounding the ordinance.
“Our town is growing, no one is immune to the growing pains. However, we have a fantastic community that rallies around one another. In this moment, I’m asking you to continue rallying around Wheeler’s Raid.” Barnes said. “I urge you to reconsider this ordinance.”
Why change the ordinance?
During the quarterly BOMA workshop which took place directly before Thursday’s regular meeting, town leaders had a chance to discuss the ordinance with Police Chief Roddy Parker.
Parker said it was he who brought the issue to the town, and explained his reasoning for the proposed change.
“When the police department is called to a call by someone to solve an issue, we try our best to solve it. The current ordinance for this particular instance is kind of vague and not very helpful… If we’re going to have music venues close to residential areas and as [in not] just this case but in the future as Nolensville grows, if we have more similar businesses close to residential areas, the police department would like to have a clear, definitive ordinance — whatever that looks like — to deal with these situations. The officers don’t want to be put in a position to go over there and intervene in a businessman’s livelihood if we don’t have to. But on the other hand, we have to address complaints when they come in.”
Though the background information listed on the town’s website details complaints made by one resident, Parker was clear that complaints were not exclusively made by one person.
“There were at least three different individuals that I talked to complaining,” Parker said. “It wasn’t just one.”
Without more precise wording in the noise ordinance, Parker said consistency in enforcement is one of the issues law enforcement personnel are finding while responding to calls.
In other words, if the decision about whether someone is in violation of an ordinance is up to an officer’s best judgement and not something measurable such as a decibel reading, Parker said such decisions could differ from one officer to the next.
“I don’t want that,” Parker told town leaders. “I want to be fair and consistent to both parties. I want to be able to help the people that are complaining. And I don’t want our officers sent into businesses if the complaint is not a valid complaint according to our ordinances.”
Vice Mayor Jason Patrick asked for clarification from Parker about how ordinance complaints work within the police department.
“It’s all complaint-based, right?” Patrick asked.
“I’m not driving around looking for noise, I guarantee it,” Parker replied.
“If someone comes to the town… and says, ‘Hey, we think this is a violation of an ordinance,’ or ‘We think this is a violation of a code,’ it’s at that point that we are to take action and investigate and rectify, if necessary, whatever that violation is,” Patrick said. “So in this case, because the complaints were received, we have to address it.”
“I feel like I have a duty to check into that just like I would about any complaint,” Parker said. “…I’m just trying to solve a problem we have to deal with.”’
Despite the earlier discussion, town leaders heard concerns brought forward by residents and decided the ordinance needed to be reviewed further before any changes to the town’s code could be made. The board voted to defer the item indefinitely from Thursday’s agenda.