Every year, a Franklin resident warns his neighbors about a big party at his home in Paris Estates and asks the city to give him a break from the noise rules.
Scott Wagner’s party after an annual golf tournament he hosts at Hillview Country Club is usually pretty low key. The party is 50 or so adults hanging around and talking, with some music playing out of a small stereo. But letting his neighbors and the city know it’s coming is the right thing to do, he said. And it gives an extra assurance that police won’t be writing a ticket if someone does complain.
Noise ordinances in Greenwood and Franklin are meant to keep noise down from people yelling and screaming at parties or blasting loud music from their cars, homes or businesses, but police rarely write tickets to noisemakers.
In 2013, Greenwood wrote nine tickets for noise violations and gave out 37 warnings. The year before officers issued two tickets. Typically officers will knock on a door and ask someone to keep the noise down and that’s enough to solve the problem, police said. In Franklin, citations can cost as much $100 each for a third offense and any time after that. The fines are much higher in Greenwood, where a third violation will cost $300 and any additional tickets are $1,000 each, but those are rare.
“No one wants the police out there, including the police. Most of the businesses and most folks comply,” Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth said.
Any resident, business or group that is having an event that might get loud or continue late into the evening can apply for an exception in Franklin or Greenwood. Those one-time breaks don’t mean a resident or organization is totally exempt from the rules. If police receive multiple complaints, bands are using a lot of profanity or the noise continues past the hours the city approves, police could still write tickets, Franklin Police Lt. Kerry Atwood said.
Since the exceptions have to be approved by a city board in a public meeting, the process allows neighbors to object and lets the city decide whether to stretch the rules about noise past normal daylight hours.
In Franklin, the process is as simple as filling out a form and then telling the city board of works about the event. Doing so allows more people to consider what effect the noise will have on the area, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
For example, a bar in Franklin is requesting exceptions for nearly every weekend throughout the summer to have outdoor concerts, but the request is giving both neighbors and city officials some pause as to whether that’s an excessive amount of loud weekends. This week, the city board of works is reviewing requests from three other groups, including the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks’s Franklin lodge, Franklin College and a fraternity house.
Wagner has hosted a get-together at his home for about 20 years, but when he moved into Paris Estates he started applying every year and has been approved for eight years straight, Wagner said. One year a neighbor did object to the party, but the city considered the feedback and still allowed the exception, he said.
“It never did get denied and nor did we have any problems to where any citations were ever issued. That’s posted as public information and if folks don’t agree with it, they do have an opportunity to come and voice their opinion at that meeting, and every year I make sure I’m there and answer questions,” he said.
Neighbors did show up earlier this month to protest a request from the Grill Bar in Franklin, which wants to have outdoor concerts on 14 weekends this year. Residents who live on Water Street told the city that the bar is often noisy from people outside, but concerts are exceptionally loud. At night, Connie Hill will put in earplugs and put a pillow over her head, but she can still hear the music because their house is right across the alley from the business.
“The frequency that he’s asking for is wrong for the residences of that neighborhood,” neighbor Ron Collins said.
Grill Bar owner Larry Hughes did not return phone calls or emails sent last week.
Live music can be good for business, but the city has to also weigh the impact on neighbors. Every weekend throughout the summer seems excessive, Franklin board of works member Bob Swinehamer said. In this case, some of those concerts would also overlap with fourth Friday concerts hosted by the city and the competing bands would create excess noise for downtown residents and visitors, McGuinness said. The city hasn’t approved any exception yet and board of works members plan to continue discussing the concerts with the bar owner and the neighbors this week and will work toward finding a compromise.
When police do go to a noise complaint, officers aren’t measuring noise by a certain amount of decibels, but instead by whether a sound such as music can be heard from a particular distance.
In the past Franklin had decibel meters and would try to write tickets for loud cars, but that required an officer to carry a decibel reader and led to very few tickets, Atwood said. If officers can hear a noise from 50 feet away from a car or house, that’s enough to justify something as being too loud, he said.