The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 5-0 to adopt a countywide noise ordinance that will become effective Oct. 25.
Late-night music that irked neighbors of large festivals at Lake Tulloch Resort and on private land near Sheep Ranch in recent years brought on a renewed effort to establish a formal regulation.
Sound levels permitted in residential (60 decibels), commercial (70 decibels) and industrial zones (75 decibels) during daytime hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. are written into the ordinance. At night, the permitted levels drop 10 decibels in each zone.
According to Temple University engineers’ analysis and Los Angeles city planning guidelines, 50 decibels is the level of ambient noise in a quiet suburban neighborhood or an at-home conversation; 60 decibels is the measure of a restaurant conversation or a dishwasher rinse cycle at 10 feet away; and 70 decibels is comparable to freeway traffic from 50 feet away or ambient sound in a busy urban area.
The levels were viewed as too low by opponents and liable to infringe on residents having relatively peaceful gatherings.
“You’re giving police power to come onto your property for simple sound,” said Brian Gerber of Mountain Ranch.
Mountain Ranch resident Ray Goodpastor, who gave a passionate and colorful speech in protest of the ordinance at the Aug. 28 meeting, had a simple, toned-down plea for the board this time around.
“Just because some time and effort went into this issue doesn’t mean you have to approve it,” Goodpastor said. “You can say no.”
Lake Tulloch resident Jack Cox urged the ordinance’s adoption.
“We don’t want to become Lake Havasu and Lake Tulloch is rapidly becoming that,” Cox said, noting that powerful sound systems can turn one’s revelry into another’s torment on a seemingly distant shore. “We don’t want the lake to turn into a mess and we think the noise ordinance will deal with that.”
Double Springs resident Bonnie Newman related an anecdote of dealing with her own inconsiderate neighbors late one night.
“The more people we have in this world, the more legislation we have to impose because people have no respect for each other,” Newman said.
Supervisor Steve Wilensky said the time had come to act.
“If this is a distilling process, it must be over 500 proof by now. This has been going a long time,” Wilensky said. “I think it is clear … it is not our intention to shut down weddings and one-time celebrations.”
Supervisor Merita Callaway reiterated her reluctance to introduce such an ordinance but recognized the power it could provide the Sheriff’s Department to remedy problems.
“If there is a better way to do this, then I would like to know what it is because I have come to this pretty much kicking and screaming,” Callaway said. “Once the dust settles, this just gives (deputies) another tool to do their job.”
In other business, the board voted unanimously to name a new road leading to the Justice Center that will open next year as Jeff Tuttle Drive in honor of the former District Attorney and chief counsel to the county who died of a heart attack in 2010.
The Union Democrat is now online in a Replica E-edition form and publishes Tuesday through Saturday. E-Edition or Print Plus subscribers have full access.
If you are not a current subscriber, subscribe today for immediate access. Circulation: 209-533-3614
Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties