Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Noise and light ordinances have always been interesting to me, primarily because they often accentuate legitimate disconnects between certain types of development.

For instance, many cities want bright lights and interesting sounds in those areas of town where evening activity provides for nice sales tax receipts.  At the same time, many residential property owners enjoy the sound of crickets and night lights of the cosmos.

The conflict arises when the two intersect.  After all, you certainly wouldn't want to be able to see the stars and hear the crickets each evening in a central business district if the goal was a viable nighttime entertainment destination where people are looking for music and such.

Sound ordinances and light regulations are sometimes used to balance this issue.  Recently though Sullivan's Island in South Carolina seemed to get the balance at little, well, un-balanced.

From USA Today:

Visitors to the Charleston, S.C., suburb of Sullivan's Island are invited to have a good time eating, drinking and making merry in the seven restaurants that comprise its business district.

But if a proposed amendment passes Tuesday, they won't be welcome to sing or whistle on the street. The town council has given initial approval to an amendment to its noise ordinance that would make it unlawful "for any person to yell, shout, hoot, whistle or sing on the public streets."

The proposed amendment says these restrictions are to be enforced "particularly between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.," but also "at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose" of the townspeople.

The time-based restrictions seem fairly straightforward but the second part screams at a problem of ambiguity. Now, I'm all for not disturbing another person's repose unnecessarily but this is about as a subjective standard as I've seen codified in a long, long time. 

Let the Sullivan's Island Whisper Wars begin...

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

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