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Noise ordinance OK'd in Henry County

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

An amended version of a proposed animal noise ordinance was approved by the Henry County Board of Supervisors in a 3-2 vote Tuesday evening.

Reed Creek District Supervisor Tommy Slaughter, Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant and Iriswood District Supervisor Milton Kendall voted for the ordinance, while Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan and Blackberry District Supervisor Jim Adams opposed it.

Board Chairman H.G. Vaughn did not attend the meeting.

The amended ordinance reads: “It shall be unlawful for any animal owner to permit or allow any dog or cat to bark, meow, screech, scream, wail, caterwaul or create noise in any residential area in the county continuously for more than 15 consecutive minutes between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and at such a volume said noise can be heard upon property other than the animal’s owner. The creation of the noise at least once a minute for fifteen minutes shall be presumed to be continuous. Violation of this ordinance shall be punishable by a civil penalty up to $250.”

During a public hearing preceding the supervisors’ discussion and adoption of the ordinance, five area residents spoke.

Andrew Wright, Brad Flood and Ellen Williams spoke in favor of the ordinance. Wright said the ordinance would benefit those who live where houses are in close proximity. Flood agreed, saying that he has issues with a neighbor whose dogs frequently are unattended and bark for hours at a time.

Williams said she lives near a kennel and often is awakened in the early morning by barking dogs.

Area residents Russell Sharpe and Jimmy Agee said they were opposed to the ordinance, as they are both raccoon hunters who hunt with coonhounds.

Agee and Sharpe said they were concerned that if they were hunting in the evening and their dogs sighted a raccoon and began barking, it could trigger other nearby dogs to bark, leading to a noise ordinance violation.

Kendall stressed that the proposed ordinance, which he originally brought to the board, was solely intended to address situations where a resident was unable to enjoy his or her home due to a neighbor’s constantly barking dogs.

Adams said the majority of residents he had spoken to were concerned that passing the ordinance would place additional responsibilities on an already overworked sheriff’s department.

“I don’t think putting a law on the books solves the problem,” Adams said, because the main impetus for the ordinance was a desire by some residents to address issues with their neighbors without having to confront the people themselves. Instead, he said, that responsibility would fall to the sheriff’s department.

Buchanan agreed with Adams’ assessment of the situation.

Bryant asked County Attorney George Lyle if it would be easier to prosecute cases of neighbors with barking dogs if the ordinance was in effect.

Lyle said that as the ordinance originally was worded — making a violation a class 4 misdemeanor — the ordinance would be the only way that a neighbor with constantly barking dogs could receive criminal punishment. However, he said, residents always have the option of filing a civil suit against a neighbor who is damaging their ability to enjoy their home for any reason.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester, who attended the meeting, said a violation of a class 4 misdemeanor would become part of the violator’s criminal record, whereas a civil suit would not.

When asked by Bryant, Nester said he thought a violation of the ordinance should not be a criminal charge.

After the discussion, it was determined that the ordinance would be amended so that a violation would be a civil penalty and not a class 4 misdemeanor.

Also at the board’s 6 p.m. meeting at the Henry County Administration Building, the supervisors:

• Heard an update on general highway matters from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Resident Engineer Lisa Hughes.

Hughes’ only item of business for the board was the proposed replacement of a box culvert on Cedar Hill Drive in Henry. However, she said, because Cedar Hill Drive is a route frequently taken by logging trucks heading toward a local sawmill, she recommended that the project be delayed until after summer.

• No matters were presented by the public.

 

 
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