Editorial: Noise ordinance is not homeowner friendly

Published May 29, 2013 at 05:00AM

The city of Bend’s noise ordinance is up for approval at tonight’s City Council meeting. It’s new and improved, but it’s still not good enough.

The council needs to tweak it again so that homeowners can’t be fined without the police using a decibel meter. Homeowners deserve the same protection under the law as businesses.

The council’s changes to the ordinance are designed to do three important things: refine it’s clarity; reduce the fine for the first offense in a year from $750 to $250; and require that decibel meters be used before fining a business.

There was some discussion among councilors at a recent council meeting suggesting that the council should take another look at the ordinance, perhaps in a few months. City Manager Eric King pointed out that the ordinance — no matter how it is amended or refashioned — is not going to stop all problems with noise.

And he’s right. Dogs will still bark long after an owner should stop them. A party/celebration/band is still going to go on too long and too loud. No noise ordinance is going to silence noise problems. It gives the city and the police a tool to tame them.

But this isn’t a case of trying to tune an ordinary ordinance into doing something extraordinary. This is a case of an ordinance designed with an inherent bias in favor of businesses and against homeowners. Why would the city only require that a decibel meter be used before fining businesses and not require the same thing for homes?

Councilors and city staff have provided no respectable answer.

That should make councilors more than momentarily uncomfortable. That should make councilors change the ordinance.

Councilors have been worried at times if the city staff is doing enough to ensure the city is “business friendly.” Don’t forget to make it “homeowner friendly,” too.

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