Troutman Council to look at noise ordinance changes, consider water leak insurance
BY DEBBIE PAGE
At its pre-agenda meeting on Monday afternoon, the Troutman Town Council heard from residents in the Hoover Road area who are fed up with construction noise and lights from the future Troutman Industrial Park site.
Residents complained of construction noise sometimes as late as 2 a.m. and as many as six bright lighting units that disturbed their evenings. Parents complained about noise disrupting children’s sleep while others complained they cannot open their windows to enjoy cool fall breezes because the noise drowns out household conservations.
Town Manager Justin Longino, joining the meeting on speaker phone from Chapel Hill, said he has spoken with both residents and Kathy Godley, owner of the TIP site. He sympathized with the quality-of-life disruptions of residents.
According to Longino, Godley has questioned why she is receiving complaints now for following the same type of construction procedures she adhered to for her 300,000-square-foot warehouse on Old Murdock Road.
But council members pointed out that few residential homes were near that site, which is in a mostly industrial area.
NEIGHBORS NOISE CONCERNS
Alison Stroud, who has acted as the neighborhood spokesperson throughout the town’s consideration of the TPI project, said 12 neighbors have contacted her about the noise and light pollution.
One Leona Lane resident told Stroud that he cannot hear his lawn mower over the construction noise as he cuts his lawn.
Stroud urged town officials to protect residents by creating a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. construction restriction, saying that a good neighbor, as Godley promised to be during the project’s approval process, does not pursue construction work until 1 or 2 a.m.
Neighbor Jim Benson compared the noise level at his Leona Lane home to Charlotte-Douglas Airport with the constant grinding of stumps and tree debris adjacent to his property.
Benson also questioned future noise and lights at the industrial park after it is in operation, lamenting that he and wife Gail feel they have lost their “little piece of heaven” that he has carefully maintained for many years.
Town Planner Erika Martin assured Benson that a 50-foot buffer with 75 percent evergreen vegetation is required and should be installed in the near future to block both light and noise issues.
OUTDATED NOISE ORDINANCE
Resident Karen Davies complained that the current noise ordinance (https://library.municode.com/nc/troutman/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIIICOOR_CH10EN_ARTIINO) is not being enforced by Troutman police. Davies also noted that, according to the law, Godley’s rights to develop her property end where her neighbors' legal right to peaceful enjoyment of their land begins.
The general noise regulation states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to cause, make, or contribute to the creating of any loud or disturbing noise of such character, intensity, or duration as to be detrimental to the life or health of any individual, or such noises as disturb the normal quiet and peace of any citizen of the town.”
However, Troutman Police Chief Matthew Selves pointed out the ordinance wording affects residents of Troutman town limits, not the extraterritorial jurisdiction zoning area where most of the neighbors live.
Selves also pointed out the outdated nature of the ordinance, which addresses only amplified noise, horns, pets, and automobiles, and does not specifically address construction noise or give restriction time frames, which complicates the police force’s legal authority.
Town Attorney Gary Thomas added that the vague Troutman noise ordinance, passed in 1979, would likely not be enforced by the district attorney. He noted that in his 30 years of legal experience as an attorney and assistant DA, he had seen few noise ordinance cases make it into court.
Selves asked that the council consider adding an ordinance provision regarding construction and setting time limits to give him clear authority to enforce noise issues, but Thomas stated even that might still require an officer to be onsite with a decibel meter to determine violations, which would need definition by decibel level.
Council members acknowledged a need to revisit the ordinance that was appropriate nearly 40 years ago for a small hamlet but hardly adequate for a rapidly growing town with hundreds of homes being built in multiple developments.
However, council members also need time to properly research and craft regulations that will protect citizens from noise issues while reasonably accommodating business owners, residents, businesses, churches, and builders.
Council member Paul Henkel, who added the noise issue to the meeting’s agenda, said the new noise ordinance would require “deep discussion.”
Council members decided to first try to resolve the situation through a meeting of town staff, council representatives, and Godley on Tuesday, asking that construction noise and light cease between 9 a.m and 7 a.m.
If Godley had an extraordinary circumstance (i.e. finishing a concrete pour, etc.), Henkel suggested she could contact Chief Selves for permission to exceed those limits.
However, if Godley will not work informally with the town to resolve neighbors’ complaints, council members indicated they may take official action to create an immediately enforceable ordinance on Thursday night to address the issue.
Council member Paul Bryant noted that the noise issue was not limited to just the Hoover Road area. With the many subdivisions currently under construction in Troutman, Bryant said, “A lot of people are having noise issues, and we’ve got to find the right way to manage them.”
WATER/SEWER LEAK INSURANCE PROGRAM UNDER CONSIDERATION
ServLine representative Shelby Winstead teleconferenced with council members to present a low-cost program to protect customers from exorbitant water bills when a leak occurs. The council will discuss the program and consider adding it as an option to protect customers at Thursday night’s regular meeting.
Many municipalities and utilities are starting to offer this protection, which is recommended by NC Rural Water, to their customers.
Winstead said that over two-thirds of utility customers are unaware that if water leaks occur, they are responsible for the wasted water. The town also loses time dealing with angry, unprotected customers who have no choice but to pay the bill.
ServLine, a full service insurance program backed by two A-rated insurance companies, pays high water and/or sewer bills in the event of leaks for a small monthly charge for residential customers, ranging from $1.30 to $3.10 per month, depending on whether the town choses to cover water only or water and sewer as well as the amount of coverage they select.
Commercial customers would pay $3.60 to $8.50 for single occupancy or $7.20 to $17.00 for multiple occupancy businesses.
The coverage amount would be added to the monthly water bill as a line item. The town may choose whether to require the coverage or allow customers to opt out, which would mean they would be responsible for all costs for water loss.
For example, if a customer’s pipes froze and burst, the insurance would pay for the water loss rather than the customer. If the resident opted out, all lost water must be covered by the customer.
Only 3 percent of customers choose to opt out among ServLine’s current customers.
Customers may also choose an additional opt-in lateral line coverage that pays for repair or replacement of damaged water or sewer lines between the meter and home foundation, which are currently the responsibility of the home or business owner. Costs range from $4.40 for a residence to $6 for a commercial customer.
The claim process is easy. After receiving an unusually high water bill (the town would set the defition of “high” parameters), the customer can call the local ServLine number to make a claim.
The company then contacts the town to get the average monthly payment for the past twelve months and will then pay anything over that amount, with the customer paying only the monthly average.
According to Winstead, an average customer-caused leak spills 62,000 gallons of water at a cost of approximately $350. Then the town and staff have additional staff costs dealing with the leak and upset customers with large water bills.
If the council decides to go with the plan, ServLine will send out a flyer to customers introducing the plan, its cost, additional coverage possibilities, and explaining how to opt out a few months before the plan goes into effect.
The flyer will also include a local ServLine number to answer customer questions about the program.
ZIP CODE CHANGE REQUEST
Last year, the Barium Seasons Home Owners Association, currently in a Statesville ZIP code, asked the town to petition the United States Postal Service to change its neighborhood to the 28166 ZIP code.
The area from the 4 Brothers station at Old Mountain Road and Main Street to South Iredell HIgh School is also in a Statesville ZIP code, as is the newly approved Colonial Crossing and the East Monbo area.
Mayor Elbert Richardson made a similar request in 2008. Since the USPS only considers such petitions every 10 years, the town had to wait until December to make a request again.
Longino, who is still assessing which areas to add to the request, said the post office would send out a post card survey to gauge affected residents interest in the change.
Longino will soon send a letter to the postal service requesting the change, noting the town’s rapid growth and the “large portion of Troutman residents” with a Statesville ZIP code that “creates a community identity issue with taxes, fees, and jurisdictional questions.”
Longino will include a map with amended ZIP code boundaries, a “reasonable accommodation” which he hopes “will help our current residents, future residents, and guests to be able to unequivocally call Troutman home.”
OTHER AGENDA ITEMS FOR THURSDAY'S MEETING
► A presentation on the I-77 toll lanes project, costs, and transponder use.
► Rezoning request for the 200-acre Colonial Crossing, located between East Monbo and Tally Street.
► Monthly reports from J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library and Troutman Parks and Recreation.
► Closed session to consider property acquisition and economic development.