PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict doesn’t intend to seek a public nuisance noise ordinance, he told a group of 30 critics earlier this week.
Instead, the sheriff has proposed that county commissioners pass a resolution enacting a section of the Washington Administrative Code — WAC 173-58 — that requires decibel metering to ban loud noises.
The issue of a public nuisance noise ordinance had been moribund since July, when scores of people railed against it at a public hearing in front of county commissioners.
Some of those same critics packed a courthouse hearing room Wednesday night, spurred by an e-mail that claimed Benedict would try to resurrect the proposal at a meeting of his Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory Committee.
Instead, they heard him officially abandon it and listened as the committee ratified his decision.
The e-mail, sent out below a message from Sue Forde urging people to attend the Wednesday meeting, said “The Clallam County commissioners are crafting a new noise ordinance that governs 24 hours a day!!!!”
The original source of the e-mail is unclear.
Forde is chairwoman of the Clallam County Republican Party and was primary election campaign director for Terry Roth, a Republican running against Mike Chapman.
Chapman, who was elected twice as a Republican, was ejected from the county party for endorsing Forde’s Democratic opponent in 2007.
He is running for re-election as an independent.
Roth’s current campaign is chaired by Don and Ginger Alexander
The e-mail also charged that “those who were born here or have lived here for most of their lives are no longer wanted . . . swept aside as an elite band of newcomers seem to be setting new rules.”
It was followed by a copy of the draft ordinance Benedict introduced last summer.
Commissioners, after the July hearing, told Benedict to put the issue to his advisory committee, but privately said the proposal was dead.
The committee discussed the issue in April but reached no conclusion.
On Wednesday, Benedict told the audience, “Anyone who thinks we’re going to sneak a noise ordinance through is wrong.”
Decibel meters needed
The Washington Administrative Code that Benedict has proposed would set limits on noise in the 55-to-70-decibel level between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The county’s current noise ordinance governs only amplified sounds, meaning loud music.
Chapman also addressed the group.
“We heard from the public loud and clear,” he said, referring to the July hearing.
“We listened. We had a very robust, thorough public process and we didn’t pass the ordinance.
“We cannot pass a law in the dead of night without public hearings. … If there was a conspiracy, we wouldn’t be here.”
Those assurances didn’t prevent about an hour of anti-ordinance comments.
‘We don’t want a KGB’
• “We don’t want the sheriff’s department to become a KGB where they have absolute power over the people with some petty law that they’ve passed,” said Tom LaRosa of Port Angeles.
• “How come we have to have an ordinance here?” asked Shirley Gump of Port Angeles. “How come they just can’t take it up civilly?”
Benedict answered that an attorney would charge about $5,000 to buy noise-measuring devices, take tests and pursue a lawsuit.
• Ron Richards of Port Angeles, answering Benedict’s objections to buying decibel meters and training officers to use them, said, “You have radar guns. You have alcohol Breathalyzers. There’s no reason not to have decibel meters.”
• Instead of an ordinance, the county should assemble a citizens panel “to target the troublemakers in this county,” said Mike Brown of Port Angeles.
The meeting ended with the committee voting not to revive the July ordinance.
“We’re not going to consider that anymore,” said Benedict.
“With this vote tonight,” added Chapman, “the commissioners will not look at this ordinance.”
Instead, the committee will study the appropriate WAC and discuss it at their next meeting.
That will be on Jan. 28.
Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.