Meeting over new Christiansburg noise ordinance, following Starlite controversy, gets heated

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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) The first of several meetings Thursday night over changes to Christiansburg's Noise Ordinance got a little out of control.

This all started when the Starlite Drive in Movie Theatre upgraded its sound system, and some neighbors complained about the noise.

Following the Starlite bringing the town to court, Christiansburg agreed to change the ordinance.

First of all violating the ordinance will not be a criminal case, just civil with hefty fines for violating it.

But the big change is people can apply for permits, costing $750 to apply, to go louder than the ordinance allows. However, that conversation got so heated the Police Chief had to step in at one point to break things up.

Christiansburg's Planning Director Andrew Warren said of the move to change, “We're looking at it to clarify and to move forward with the noise ordinance so that it is easier to understand and to be able to conduct their business and their lives by understanding the noise ordinance.”

Along with the Starlite Drive-In, the owners of Fatback Soul Shack were fighting. They had an outdoor concert shutdown when the old ordinance was in place.

Jared March, who also owns Due South Barbecue said, “The current code, when interpreted properly, that businesses are exempt when making noise in the course of doing their business, we think that's logical [and] fair.”

There was some debate on whether that's the right interpretation. But he and his wife and co-owner Marie March were asked what they'd rather have done with the new ordinance.

“One thing I don't like seeing is a $750 tax imposed on people to apply for a conditional use permit,” Jared said. “That seems like a new tax.”

Marie added, “But I would not be opposed to a blanket permit as long as it's not subjective and there's real criteria that are apply fairly to everyone, and as long as we are permitted to do what we've built our business intending to do.”

So the Town was asked how it can guarantee a fair application process for all businesses.

Warren answered, “It is part of the process and that's why we chose the conditional use permit process, because it's a well-established process that the planning commission, they are used to looking at land use issues and making recommendations to Town Council.”

People who want to keep things quieter refused to talk to media after the meeting. But they did say they can't sleep because the new sound system causes their walls to vibrate.

There's another meeting Thursday, March 8 to give comment.

Then the changes go to the Planning Commission followed by the Town Council. Action is expected by the Council in late April.

To read the changes to the ordinance, click here.

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