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January 11, 2002

Cheboygan tells township to deal with noise

-Mullett Township will discuss whether cost of noise ordinance would be worth it on Feb. 5
By ADRIENNE JANNEY
      Special to the Record-Eagle
     
      CHEBOYGAN - If the people of Mullett Township want a noise ordinance they'll have to do it on their own, the Cheboygan County Board said Tuesday.
      Mullett Township supervisor Bill Morgan had approached the board about enacting a countywide noise ordinance when a problem between two neighbors escalated into a neighborhood noise war.
      "(Some homeowners) feel that this lady was running a leaf blower to annoy them, and people farther away, (it was) starting to annoy them," Morgan said.
      The woman ran the leaf blower "all day, or certain days when it was nice out and people could be active," he said.
      But prosecutor Mickey Castagne told commissioners that state Attorney General Jennifer Granholm ruled in December that county boards have zero power to enact noise ordinances.
      Board members told Morgan that if the noised-out neighbors were going to get a legal tool to keep the peace, it would have to come from the township.
      It wasn't the first time the county considered a noise ordinance, but the board was never able to agree on whether it wanted to legislate, let alone a draft an ordinance.
      In recent years residents from other parts of the county complained to the board about a barking dog problem.
      After much public uproar the board passed a zoning ordinance to cover barking dogs, then repealed it, rewrote it and passed it again.
      That ordinance is currently enforced largely by the county's animal control officer, said Cheboygan County Humane Society Director Mary Talaske.
      Prosecutor Castagne said the city of Cheboygan has its own noise ordinance, and any other chartered organization has the authority to enact one.
      Counties only have authority to legislate in certain areas, and in Granholm's opinion, noise exceeds the limits of county power.
      The county can make noise issues part of its zoning ordinances, which the planning commission is in the process of overhauling, Castagne said.
      Meanwhile, Morgan said Mullett Township will discuss the issue at its Feb. 5 meeting, including whether the cost of its own ordinance would be worth it to residents.
      "Townships still have remedies, it's just not through a countywide ordinance," Castagne said.
      No matter who is looking at passing noise laws, it can be an expensive and complicated undertaking, she said. Townships would have to contract with law enforcement, such as their own constable or the sheriff's department, and either their own attorney or the county prosecutor.
      Castagne said that even with those mechanisms in place, it's difficult to prove and decipher what is an inappropriate noise. Most noise violations are teen-age parties, but noise from concerts, crowds, construction equipment or animals can be a problem.
      "What is noise to one person may be making a living to another person," she said.
      For example, commissioner Bob Bolinger keeps cattle, and at a certain time of the year, they bawl.
      "It is noisy, I've heard it," Castagne said. "(But) it's music to his ears because that's money."
     
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