The Wrangell Borough Assembly considered a set of ordinances to tackle noise near residential and store-front areas. The assembly stalled on these changes, saying the code needs to be reworked to suit the community.
Almost a dozen residents came to the assembly opposing the new regulations.
Those present said that Wrangell is full of industrious handymen that should be applauded for their do-it-yourself attitude and know-how. And noise just comes with that.
“I like handy neighbors. I also say handy neighbors come in handy,” said Assembly Member Patti Gilbert.
After discussion, the assembly tabled the ordinances, requesting the language, once again, be revised and presented at an upcoming meeting.
Assembly Member David Powell noted that Wrangell already has noise regulation in place. It’s a part of the zoning code.
The changes would make noise complaints more enforceable. Currently noise complaints are addressed through snail mail. The changes would set a fee schedule, so police can issue fines as needed. The first noise offense would result in a $50 fine. Then a $75 fine, a $150 fine, and then a court appearance with a $300 to $500 fine.
In that regard, the new code could be seen as a crack of the whip. But the language is sure to be more lax than what is already in the books. The proposed code has exemptions for most personal work: using power tools, snow removal, construction and working on a personal boat. There are no decibel guidelines for these activities from 7AM to 8PM.
Gilbert even commented that the only prohibited personal activity she could think would be music.
Commercial work and gig labor, occurring near residential areas, are more likely to be the targets of this enforcement.
Assembly Member Anne Morrison said it shouldn’t have to be this way.
“Interfering between two neighbors who are having a fight. I don’t think we need to be there. It’s something they handle on their own,” Morrison said.
But clearly, they cannot handle it on their own.
The city has said for years that it wants to tackle nuisance abatement. The city isn’t swayed by any one dispute in town.
But a pair of feuding neighbors has definitely inserted itself into the conversation.
Scott Eastaugh has received noise complaints from his neighbor Haig Demerjian for years. Demerjian has been a proponent of noise guidelines and helped get the code through the planning and zoning committee.
Eastaugh says he’s fighting the noise regulation for himself and for all Alaskans.
“The amendments that are going to be added to this noise ordinance would cause undue hardship for most of the working people in this town. The ones that burn wood, repair their own cars, boats, etc.,” he said. “These are things we do everyday and don’t think twice about.”
The work of Alaskans and the rights of Americans were recurring themes as individuals gave their testimony.
Bonnie Demerjian was not at the meeting, but she wrote to the assembly, saying “ Why is then that I, who am also an American, am not able to sit on my deck and enjoy the sun and a pre-dinner glass of wine? I cannot because noise drives me back inside… I sense some class friction here whereby those who make noise are the real Americans and those who don’t are not. Can this be true?”
The assembly will take the issue up again, for the third time, at it’s meeting on March 26.