City rules regard ‘ordinary sensitivity’
In the city of Lawrence, it is illegal to make noise that “disturbs, injures, endangers the repose, health, peace or safety of other people or ordinary sensitivity” within the vicinity of the noise.
Among other things, the law applies to radios, televisions, musical instruments and parties.
Exempted from the ordinance are emergency workers, alarm systems, trash operations, aircraft, railroads, air conditioners, lawn care equipment, construction operations, church bells and any noise from a temporary event planned by a school, university, government or community group.
For some residents who choose to live in the country for the peace and quiet, rural Douglas County isn’t quite quiet enough.
Such concerns prompted Douglas County Commissioners to agree that it’s time to look at a noise ordinance.
In an e-mail that was shared with county commissioners, a resident who lives south of Lawrence complained of neighbors operating four-wheelers, trucks without mufflers and noisy cars “from night until morning.”
While the neighbors could ask the drivers to quiet down, they don’t have any legal recourse to make them stop.
“None of us are trying to prevent farmers from working the fields, construction workers from building houses or church bells from ringing — but we should not be experiencing sleep deprivation,” the e-mail read.
While noise ordinances are common inside city limits, they aren’t so typical in rural areas.
Over the years, County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he has received complaints from county residents about four-wheelers, wild parties, loud music, barking dogs and gunshots.
In the past year, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has received about 60 noise complaints, an average of five a month.
“That’s not a whole heck of a lot,” Sgt. Steve Lewis said.
When noise complaints do come into the sheriff’s office, Lewis said deputies try to locate the people making the noise and ask them to be quieter. Because there isn’t a specific ordinance, the sheriff’s office doesn’t have any enforcement power.
But most residents are cooperative, Lewis said.
In the next few weeks, Weinaug will work with Commissioner Jim Flory to draft a noise ordinance for consideration by the full commission.
Part of their work will include looking at what decibel levels the ordinance should be set at and what times of day it should be enforced.