Elkhart County Residents Face Stiff Fines for Broad Noise Ordinance
Elkhart County’s noise ordinance just got a bit stiffer. The Elkhart County Board of Commissioners approved an amendment to the county’s existing noise ordinance on Monday. It now requires increasing fines for repeat offenders.
While the past ordinance gave judges discretion on the fine, the amended law sets a minimum and maximum for repeat offenders. A first violation will cost $250, a repeat offense will cost $500, the third offense will cost $1,000, and any repeat offenses after that will cost $1,500 per violation up to a maximum fine of $2,500. The increased fines only apply to repeat violations within two years of each other.
The ordinance covers a number of possible noise infractions, beginning with a broad general statement that “no person shall make, continue or cause to be made or continued any loud, raucous, improper, unreasonable, offensive or unusual noise which disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others persons within the unincorporated areas of the county.”
It then lists a number of possible violations, but notes that you can be fined for things not on the list. The list includes car honking, loud music (including musical instruments), animal noises, a broken muffler on a vehicle, loud or rattling engines, squealing tires, “unreasonably loud and excessive noise in connection with loading or unloading any vehicle or the opening and destruction of bales, boxes, crates and containers.”
The ordinance states that it is up to the property owner to prevent noise violations from occurring on their property.
The ordinance provides exceptions for fireworks at certain times and days; government sponsored or permitted festivals, sporting events and fairs; outside school activity; farm equipment in an area with agricultural zoning; manufacturing equipment in a manufacturing zoned area; alerting people to an emergency; or for “work to prevent or alleviate physical or property damage threatened or caused by a public calamity or other emergency.”
In addition to the changes for repeat violators, money from the violations will now go into a new fund that will benefit the Sheriff’s Department instead of the county’s general fund. According to the Elkhart Truth, the money will be used to purchase equipment and training.
The County Sheriff, Brad Rogers, and his deputies are responsible for issuing the fines, raising a possible conflict of interest. If the number of fines increases, they will directly benefit the Sheriff’s Department. According to data from 2013, there were 17 citations and 53 warnings.
The changes go into effect on September 1.