Commissioners Tackle Noise Ordinance, Hotel Tax
In the future, police officers will be able to issue noise citations with more ease, Rader says.
Here are some topics of interest from recent DeKalb County Board of Commissioners meetings:
Residents asked me to fix the problem of noise disturbance even before I was first elected to the board in 2006. The county's noise ordinance did not provide sufficient deterrence or enforcement to protect the tranquility of residential neighborhoods.
That's why I'm particularly pleased that four years after that election, the board approved a revision to the county's noise ordinance. The revision is a common sense change that strengthens the county's ability to cite those who are audibly disturbing the peace in residential neighborhoods during overnight hours (11pm - 7am).
Previously, the ordinance specified a noise tolerance standard based on decibels. If someone or something was creating noise louder than a specified number of decibels, that was deemed to be disturbing the peace.
The problem with the decibel standard is that it required a person present at the scene with a decibel meter. Typically, the people who have the equipment and training to use it are county code enforcement officers.
Getting a code enforcement officer out to a resident's house during overnight hours was problematic. That required making an appointment. But, if the noise was from a spontaneous or intermittent activity, making an appointment was impractical.
The new noise tolerance standard is whether an outside noise is audible to a person with normal hearing in closed confines of their private dwelling. Now, a police officer can come into a person's home by invitation to assess the sound. If the officer can hear the sound, they have authority to issue a citation to the offending party in accordance with the noise ordinance.
This ordinance revision is the culmination of four years of effort. This is an unfortunate example of the wheels of progress turning slowly in government, which often seems propelled by its own inertia. People often want to tell you all the reasons you can't do something. Fortunately, other commissioners heard similar complaints from their residents. Eventually, they came around to support this legislation.
DeKalb County has renewed its hotel/motel tax for one year every year since 1988. The 5 percent tax – the maximum allowed by state law – provides money to the county for general use and to promote tourism.
The hotel/motel tax generates about $1.5 million. By law, 2 percent of the tax must be used to promote tourism, conventions and trade shows. The other three percent goes into the county's general fund.
In conjunction with the extension of the hotel/motel tax, the board of commissioners approved a contract with the DeKalb Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau will be entrusted with the 2 percent funding to fulfill the tourism promotion provision of the hotel/motel tax.
The bureau's contract is for one year with the option to renew on an annual basis for a maximum of four additional years. The board reviewed the bureau's past performance and interviewed its leaders to ensure its objectives aligned with those of the county.
Jeff Rader represents District 2 on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.