MATTHEWS – As Matthews continues to see new mixed-use developments and attractions like the newly opened Mecklenburg County Sportsplex, local leaders are working to ensure the town has the right infrastructure in place to accommodate growth.
That means updating the town’s noise control ordinance to ensure residents, in the midst of the growth, are still happy to call Matthews home.
“We’re hoping it has sort of a multi-purpose effect,” Matthews Police Chief Rob Hunter said. “We want it to provide the comfort of the community in general, but recognize the mix of developments, as well.”
The town first decided to update the ordinance when originally reviewing it after hearing complaints surrounding one of the town’s recreational areas. Once leaders started the review, it was clear some updates would be needed as the town moves forward. Hunter, in collaboration with the town’s planning department and environmental advisory committee, has been working on the revisions for about four months. Still in its draft phase, Hunter hopes to see revisions come to the board for a vote in January or February, he said, adding the current ordinance in place can get the department through until then. The current ordinance is working, he said, but leaders should be proactive as they move the town forward.
“Right now, the ordinance we have in place is sufficient to deal with our current problems. Really the change is going to be more positive and proactive. Our belief is that our town and the board are really looking into this direction of urban, high-density development, so we need to adjust the ordinance for that.”
The new ordinance calls for several changes and updates for the town’s downtown area that has seen an increase in restaurants and bars over the past several years. The new ordinance would make revisions to sounds impacting residential life, amplified sounds and motor vehicles and proposes new sections addressing outdoor amplification and music at commercial establishments and chronic commercial and/or industrial noise.
The new section addressing noise levels at commercial establishments would put time constraints in place for the amplified sound, providing longer hours on the weekends, that would provide sound relief for nearby residential areas or other businesses at night. The new section on chronic noises would establish a procedure for managing chronic noises, or sounds that have become a nuisance, Hunter said – the piece of the ordinance he says is most needed in the town.
Currently, there is no procedure in place to mitigate noises – subjects responsible for the noise are fined, but there is no guarantee the problem is resolved, Hunter said.
“That section will literally say the source of the noise does not have to be in violation. The new ordinance will put in a process that will allow appropriate members of town staff to figure out a plan to mitigate the problems rather than sending out fines,” Hunter said. “I like that because it’s more proactive. If the end result of that isn’t positive, we will still fine them.”
Hunter said the department has received about 556 noise violation calls in the last two years, typically complaints from residential apartment complexes, barking dogs, fireworks, gunshots and late-hour use of power tools, lawnmowers, dirt bikes or motorcycles. Many of the calls also stem from loud talking, Hunter said, with the largest percentage of calls from loud music.