Insensitive sounds in rural Douglas County would be muffled under a resolution endorsed Wednesday night by county commissioners.
Responding to complaints from rural residents about seemingly continual driving of all-terrain vehicles and other disruptive sounds, commissioners agreed to prohibit overnight expressions of “excessive noise” in areas outside Lawrence, Eudora, Baldwin City and Lecompton.
Commissioner Jim Flory, a former prosecutor who helped craft the resolution, said the rules were intended to silence relatively obvious problems, not stifle typical activities on farms, ranches, homesteads or anywhere else.
The resolution exempts a number of activities from the prohibition, including permitted business activity, the use of firearms during otherwise lawful hunting activity, and regular agricultural operations.
“This is to deal with the most egregious circumstances, not to prohibit normal circumstances in the county,” Flory said. “If you’ve got to combine wheat at midnight, you’ve got to combine wheat at midnight. I think everybody understands that.”
The resolution will take effect within a week, said Craig Weinaug, county administrator. Under its terms, excessive noise will be prohibited in rural areas from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, and violations will be punishable by:
• A fine of $100 for a first offense within a 12-month period.
• A fine of $100 to $250, and/or 30 days in jail, for a second offense within 12 months.
• A fine of $250 to $500, and/or up to 90 days in jail, for a third and each successive offense within a 12-month period.
Nancy Thellman, commission chairwoman, described the resolution as “a very reasonable response” to complaints. Even certain “temporary” activities, such as sporting events, theatrical productions, musical shows and other county-approved events, would not be subject to the ban.
But “entertainment,” Flory said, still has its limits.
“Driving a go-cart around in circles in your backyard at 3 o’clock in the morning with no muffler may be entertaining to you,” Flory said, “but it violates this resolution.”