Quiet time: West Cocalico advertises noise ordinance

By on August 28, 2019

West Cocalico Township residents now have a brand-new noise ordinance advertised for adoption. It is available for public review at the Township’s website on the landing page under ‘documents.’
On Aug. 20, supervisors had extensive discussion before agreeing unanimously to advertise the ordinance for adoption.

Far and away the biggest driver of this noise ordinance in public meetings has been the use of large fireworks as permitted by the state last year.

Residents have been vocal at public meetings since then, describing all sorts of concerns about possible property damage and the disturbance of pets, livestock and young children.

A resident was at the meeting documenting fireworks activity for the entire week of July 4 and into August.

“I’ve spoken to them,” she said of neighbors who she said she has seen setting off fireworks near buildings at various hours of the day and night. “They say it’s the law — they’re allowed to do this.”
As residents have come forward to talk about these issues, supervisors have been clear: they cannot supersede state law with a more restrictive ordinance on fireworks specifically. However, over a series of months, with input from the Ephrata Police Department, the board has crafted the noise ordinance which will limit fireworks to the hours of 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on specific days for a period of 30 minutes only.

Dog owners say this helps them to plan to walk their dogs in a way that avoid the kinds of trauma that pet owners see when their dogs suffer explosions near them in the open.
If the board signs the noise ordinance into law next month, fireworks not compliant with the posted rules will be a violation of township law.

Prior to the vote, chairman J.J. Stoner talked quite a bit about how the planning commission and supervisors, including himself, had been working on a potential noise ordinance for a while.
“I think they pretty much did a great job of putting the noise ordinance in front of us,” Stoner said. “I bet I read (the draft) 100 times… we have looked at this from 100 different angles… I’ve tried to look at it (in different ways): larger tracts of land where people may shoot recreationally, construction, when it can start… I think this one’s going to do a pretty good job.”

Supervisors vice chair Leon Eby agreed, noting that the ordinance will also cover other noise issues such as ATVs and dirtbikes. Supervisors noted humorously the ordinance will also cover such offenses as excessive “hooting, shouting, singing or yelling.”

“The noise ordinance will address a lot of these issues,” Eby said.

Stoner told assembled residents he has the common interest in mind, and even shared a personal anecdote where he had to confront a neighbor on nuisance fireworks.

“I was sitting on my Lazy Boy watching Gunsmoke,” he said, talking about how experiences like his create rifts between neighbors. “I want to do something for the public — I’m tired of people who don’t have common sense and don’t care about others — that annoys me to no end.”

“When you’re putting these kinds of rules on residents, you do all you can (to craft good results),” said supervisor Jeff Sauder, explaining some of the delay in getting the noise ordinance ready for advertisement. “We are ahead of the curve — I think this is a very good step.”

Supervisors also looked over the document, noting how it has “teeth” in being an enforceable protection for residents. However, township manager Carolyn Hildebrand noted what the board has heard from police: that residents will have to be willing to go the distance, even if that means testifying in front of a magistrate.

“(The ordinance) has teeth in it, if you’re willing to testify,” she said.
Ultimately, the board voted 3-0 to advertise.

“Let’s take small steps to make a big step,” Stoner told residents. “I’ll be with you.”
Justin Stoltzfus is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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