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County hears comments on noise rules
A public hearing Thursday to solicit comments on amendments to the county's noise ordinance drew mixed response, mostly in favor of the proposal.

The big concern expressed by many during the meeting of the Glynn County Commission was the impact noise complaints could potentially have on businesses dependent on tourism on St. Simons Island.

Pamela Britton, a manager for the Skiff Landing Condominium Association, said property owners have been there since 1982, before some the businesses were established in nearby Redfern Village. She said the property owners are entitled to quiet enjoyment of their property.

But she also said she understood the need for businesses to provide live entertainment. She suggested business owners ask musicians to turn down the bass.

Cricket Allen, a homeowner at Skiff Landing and a local musician who performs at venues on St. Simons Island, agreed finding a way to turn down or baffle the bass would eliminate many of the noise complaints.

"It is not us against them," she said. "The thought of getting rid of music is ridiculous."

Steve Swan, a local resident, said he was speaking on behalf of more than 200 island businesses, including many that don't have live entertainment.

"Our leading industry is tourism, and we need to protect that," he said.

He said a petition drive has generated more than 2,000 signatures from people concerned about the noise ordinance.

"It needs to be addressed fairly," he said. "We don't need to affect people's incomes, and we don't need to affect people's jobs."

Hotel owner Joe McDonough said the ordinance changes are the result of complaints about rental homes for special events, known locally as "party houses."

"What started this is one party house in East Beach," he said. "You have, with this ordinance, legitimized party houses. You are permitting these events in residential neighborhoods."

The proposed ordinance changes will be enforced without a decibel meter. Instead, a plainly audible noise that can be heard inside the living area of a dwelling 5 feet from the exterior when all doors and windows are closed would be a violation. The only exception would be commercial enterprises that have an adjoining property line with a residential dwelling.

Noises plainly audible from 300 feet or more from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. would be a violation. The distance is reduced to 100 feet from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. regardless of how the noise is created.

The ordinance applies to parties or social events and noise generated from residential dwellings, as well as commercial businesses.

Unless a permit has been issued, it is unlawful for bars and other establishments to create noise that is clearly audible 100 feet or more from the premise.

Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said noise complaints would have to be confirmed by an officer before a citation is issued.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the ordinance changes at their Oct. 18 meeting.

In other business, another public hearing was held to discuss a request by Gateway Behavioral Health Services to rezone 7.9 acres between Bel Air Circle and Spur 25 to allow multi-family residential/clinic/office development. No one spoke in favor or against the proposal, which was unanimously approved by commissioners.

Commissioners also approved changing health care providers for county employees from Cigna to Blue Cross/Blue Shield, effective Jan. 1. The change will save the county between $1.2 million and $1.5 million a year.

They also approved a new wellness plan that will include a local clinic to evaluate the health of all employees enrolled in the county's insurance plan. Employees will be required to take physicals to determine overall health and identify any problems. High-risk employees will be required to meet with a health coach for problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Employees can refuse to participate in the wellness plan, but those who do will be required to pay $80 a month extra for health insurance. Tobacco users will also have to pay a $40 a month surcharge.

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