In Feb. 12 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
The public hearing on a noise abatement ordinance Monday night started with allegations of discrimination by the audience and broke down into multiple discussions amongst different factions in the crowd.
After a time order was restored and the audience packed into the courtroom began standing one at a time to address their comments to the court members rather than to each other, for the most part.
The text of the proposed ordinance would apply restrictions to holders of business or occupational licenses and would limit noise after 11 p.m. and before 7 a.m.
It contained exemptions for manufacturing and industrial businesses as well as festivals, fairs, school events and other recreational activities conducted by non-profit organizations.
The ordinance defined excessive noise as something that is audible from 500 feet beyond the property line of that property where the noise is being generated.
Billy Grider commented that the ordinance seemed written specifically to discriminate against the drag racing business that had been located in the county.
County Attorney Mark McGaha said the ordinance only limited the hours they could operate, and conceded that the nature of all laws is to discriminate against some action or another.
Steve Bell complained to the court that the new cement plant being built to supply the repairs on Wolf Creek Dam would be creating excessive noise, as well as dust and other issues, on his property.
McGaha said he would have to address that in a civil action if Bell felt the need.
Others in the crowd complained that the ordinance could limit their ability to hunt or target shoot on their own property or could impact the Russell County Sportsman's Club.
McGaha stressed that it applied only to businesses, not to homes or non-profit groups.
"So we're going to penalize business owners," Eric Selby questioned the members of the fiscal court. "We need to get business into the county not push them out."
John Carter with the Russell County Tourism Commission stressed that the race track had been a tourist draw for the county and as such should be assisted, not hindered.
Several of the residents who live near the previous site of the drag races expressed the opposite opinion, with one going so far as to say, "we are not going to allow a race track out there."
Bryan Cundiff, the broker who is selling the property where the races had been located, said that none of the people who had inquired about the auction next week had expressed any interest in using it as a race venue.
"We're dismantling the drag-racing equipment and selling it separately," Cundiff said.
In the end, none of the court members expressed a point of view to the crowd, and no motion or even discussion of the ordinance came during the fiscal court meeting that followed the hearing.