Final Appeal Before Tonight’s Vote

In one last attempt to get heard before tonight’s (July 9, 2015 – 6:30 pm) Cary’s Town Council vote on the new Noise Ordinance, yesterday I sent the following email to Cary Council members.

Dear Council Member,

I understand from personal experience that when you are in a leadership role of a complex organization, you frequently have to make hard decisions with winners and losers, and the losers often get very upset. I believe you have — perhaps correctly — assessed that the Town leadership can withstand the political heat. Further, the noise issue is just like many other tough issues faced routinely by you and your fellow leaders.

Nevertheless, if we had ever been invited to any of the fact-finding meetings, we would have been able to show you why we think this issue is different and why Cary’s reputation (“brand”) could suffer permanent harm from the way the noise issue is playing out.

As an economic development economist that has given briefings at the White House and testified before Congress on regional economic development and innovation issues, I can tell you with some authority that a community’s brand is everything if an area is to continue to grow and prosper.

The manner in which the noise issue is playing out has serious potential to harm Cary’s brand. In fact, brand damage has already begun (see attached Google search example). Win or lose on the noise issue, if our brand is damaged in the process, everyone losses.

LUS Google Cary Golf Search ResultsWe are asking for a delay and reboot of the current severely flawed process to address the following 6 critical problems in the new noise ordinance as it is currently drafted.

1) Cary is — perhaps inadvertently — significantly raising the nighttime noise limits for everywhere in Cary and opening the door for being formally identified as a noisy city having an unhealthy environment.

For all practical purposes the new Noise Ordinance effectively raises the nighttime allowable noise limit, everywhere in Cary from 60 dB to 63 dB. In the Town Council meeting discussion on May 5, 2015, members stated they were thinking that the 60 dB to 63 dB was a 5% increase. Thinking this was a 5% increase is not correct.

The decibel is not a linear scale. 63 dB is actually 23% higher in perceived loudness than 60 dB (see attached loudness calculator). Do you really want to be on record approving a 23% increase in allowable nighttime noise?

Relationship of Decibels to Loudness
Relationship of Decibels to Loudness – a 3 dB increase is a 23% increase in loudness.

But it gets worse. Cary PD measures lawn maintenance noise at the property line of the complainant, not at the noise source (like they do with a noisy muffler on a vehicle). Further, averaging favors the most offending equipment such as backpack blowers, weed wackers, etc. because of how they are used in an idle-then-full speed manner, so only the peak allowable number really matters.

The combination of decibel averaging, the 23% higher limit, and measuring from farther away will very likely mean that backpack blowers, weed wackers and other highly noisy equipment will be legal to operate in Cary anytime day or night, any day of the week, anywhere in Cary.

Further, over 400 communities in the US have banned the use of backpack blowers. While we are not advocating that here in Cary, it demonstrates how the perception (i.e., brand) of a community can be adversely affected by being perceived as not protecting a peaceful environment.

http://www.ccblincoln.com/CCBL/2OtherTowns.html

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/september/home-garden/leaf-blower/blower-noise/index.htm

Finally, ever wonder why most noise ordinances set the nighttime noise limit at 60 dB. It’s because there have been many scientific studies that show sustained environmental noise above the 55 dB to 60 dB range causes a significant increase in heart disease, stroke and mortality. There was just a report in the New York Times.  By codifying 63 dB into the Cary ordinances for all to see leaves us vulnerable to be formally declared a city with an unhealthy environment.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/01/study-links-traffic-noise-and-cardiovascular-disease/

2) Weinbrecht’s statement to the Cary News↑ “It’s disappointing that you have a few individuals stirring this up when nothing’s really changing” (the golf course statements are also using this tag line of a “few individuals”) will not stand up to scrutiny and will undermine Cary’s brand for having objective leadership.

The “few individuals” are:

  • The 75+ families that have signed the attached petition asking for a delay in passing the current noise ordinance, which based on average family size, represents nearly 300 individuals. See attached Excel file of signatures. Here is the link to the petition. https://www.change.org/p/town-of-cary-delay-noise-ordinance-changes
  • The 1,300+ homeowners represented by the formal board action by the Preston Community Association asking for a delay in passing the current noise ordinance, which based on average family size, represents nearly 5,200 individuals.
  • The 25,000+ individuals represented by the Mayor of Morrisville who has asked for a delay in passing the current noise ordinance to allow Morrisville to be part of a coordinated change in both towns’ ordinances to end the embarrassing Catch-22 enforcement problems that result for the interdependent borders of Cary and Morrisville.

3) Weinbrecht’s statement to the Cary News↑ “We’re just codifying something that’s been practiced for years” fails to consider the well-known reality of a “perceived enforcement cushion.“

For a good example of the effect of perceived enforcement cushion, consider that during non-rush hours, the majority of drivers on I-40 go up to 84 mph because they believe they can get away with going up to 9 mph over the 65 mph speed limit before they will be facing an enforcement action by police. So why doesn’t government simply “codify” the I-40 speed limit to 85 mph? Because law enforcement knows many will start going 94 mph, again believing they have a 9 mph enforcement cushion.

Since the new soon to be passed noise ordinance is already in effect since May 7th when Cary PD started using it as their enforcement standard, the noise impact on my house has been significant.

For the past 10 years 2 to 3 times a week 1 or 2 mowers took 5 minutes beginning at 6:50 am to mow the 5th tee on the Highlands. It was 10 minutes earlier than allowed but we never complained. In the first week of June on multiple occasions (time-stamped video available), 4 to 5 mowers took almost 20 minutes beginning at 6:10 am. This was a huge increase in noise for us. We believe this is a case of perceived enforcement cushion. After the media got involved, they went back to showing up later, but it was disconcerting that they could make such a dramatic change and we could do nothing about it.

What has been “going on for years” is that some golf courses have been bending the rules but staying within a mutually acceptable perceived enforcement cushion and thereby maintained a good relationship with the impacted homeowners. They set up noise awareness “hot spots” and did their best to minimize impacts on sensitive homeowners and it worked well. (By the way, hot spots were often not about complainers, but were most often about unique features of their yard or home placement relative to the golf course and/or people recovering from serious health issues.)

After these changes in the noise ordinance there is absolutely no incentive beyond public relations for these large powerful private companies to have any concern about neighborhood noise. And while we might trust current owners and/or managers, golf has caught the interest of powerful private equity firms that are buying and consolidating golf courses nationwide. In this environment a change in ownership and/or management is a real possibility and may be at the root of why this issue has suddenly come up and is considered urgent by golf.

Finally, passing laws that rely on the good will of particular ownership and management of specific private entities to protect the peaceful enjoyment of citizens’ homes is generally not considered best practices in public policy.

4). Weinbrecht’s statements to the Cary News↑ that “The council doesn’t need more time to consider the issue” and “We’re closing in on nine months (of review),” will not stand up to scrutiny and will undermine Cary’s brand as an open and transparent government that encourages and listens to citizen input.

The recommended changes that are now part of the proposed new law were first released to the public on April 29, 2015, approved by the Town Council May 5th, and put in effect by Cary PD May 7th. There was no further input or fact finding between May 5, 2015 and July 9, 2015, only the development of the legal wording to implement the recommendations. Therefore, for all practical purposes, the whole public review process took slightly more than a week and there was no chance for a meaningful public response or reaction.

5) We may be making decisions based on bad, incomplete, or non-existent data.

Town Council meeting discussion on May 5, 2015, members stated they were inclined to support the changes because there have been very few complaints on this issue. The golf courses stated in Council testimony and in the Cary News that they have had “only one complaint in 4 years.”

First, it’s reasonable to think of the 75+ families that are on the record supporting the Petition in the last few weeks as complaints.

Also, as we started to connect with those supporting the Petition, we started learning that there have been many complaints. While we can’t explain the complete disconnect, we discovered that it is the policy of the Cary and Morrisville Police Departments to not issue incident reports on lawn maintenance noise complaints. They also only issue verbal warnings, not written warnings. Responding officers “call notes” do not go into the public record (they are only available by court order). The net effect is there is no public record, data, or statistics about the actual number of noise complaints related to lawn maintenance.

Also, our investigation revealed that the informal telephone survey conducted by Town Staff about golf course start time practices might have not been specific enough to get reliable data on the critical issue of common practice. Reports suggest they simply asked golf courses when do they start lawn maintenance. But the issue is not when did you simply start, but when, what, and where on the course did you start noisy activities that exceed 60 dB?

We have no objection to starting before 7 am. It’s starting the noisy 60 dB+ activities in noise sensitive areas before 7 am that is the issue. We believe the Staff information on this issue was incomplete and may be leading the leadership to a misunderstanding as to the details of what actually constitutes common practices in the area.

6) Nothing has been accomplished on coordinating with Morrisville or solving the Catch-22 issues in enforcement that leaves an adversely affected party zero enforcement recourse no matter how egregious the violation.

This work is simply left undone and is critical to the viability of an effective noise ordinance. A Catch-22 that leaves an adversely affected citizen without legal recourse is embarrassing to a governing body and any situation that makes an ordinance routinely unenforceable regardless of the severity of the violation will certainly undermine Cary’s brand as a well-run city.

Finally on a personal note, I never intended to get so involved in the noise issue, but as I did, I grew very concerned because the way this is playing out is reminiscent of a similar situation regarding tech startups that I have been involved in locally for a decade.

When I moved my startup software company here in 1997 from Florida, it was primarily because the Triangle was on two lists; 1) Top 10 Best Cities for Tech Startups and 2) Top 10 Best Cities to Live.

In fact, back then the Triangle was number 2 on the Tech Startups List, and was often referred to then as “Silicon Valley East.” That company I brought to town now provides nearly 500 local jobs at an average salary of $90K, making it a bigger payroll than all 3 Cary country clubs combined.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Triangle is no longer on the Top 10 List for Best Startup Cities? In fact, it is not even in the Top 20. Here is the link to the latest list in the New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/10/22/technology/ap-us-tec-silicon-beach-glance-top-20-tech-cities.html?_r=0

This 10 Best Cities for Tech Startups issue played out in a very similar manner as this noise ordinance is now starting to play out. There was what started out as an honest disagreement among stakeholders on the right balance between investor returns and startup founder returns — much like the noise issue is really about balance of commercial interests and citizen concerns — but it became a winner-take-all conflict where now everyone has lost, not just the champions of startup founders like myself.

I am genuinely concerned that if we can’t take the time for all stakeholders to feel they had a fair place at the fact-finding and negotiating table, if this noise issue continues as a winner-take-all conflict, if the Cary brand is damaged by public scrutiny of a flawed governing process, and if there is not a re-establishment of a healthy balance of commercial interest and citizen concerns, Cary will soon also be off the Top 10 List of Best Cities to Live.

Not being on either Top 10 List will most likely, sooner or later, end our wonderful run of growth and prosperity. And frankly, I’m a lot more worried about that than an extra hour of sleep or my property values.

Thank you for your attention to this issue and your service to our community.

Respectfully,

Bob Butler

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New Noise Ordinance Increasing Nightime Noise 23% Everywhere In Cary Set To Be Approved July 9, 2015

The Town of Cary, North Carolina has on the agenda of the July 9, 2015 Town Council meeting — and is expected to approve unless there is strong citizen opposition — changes to its Noise Ordinance that will adversely impact all its residents and neighborhoods, but especially those adjacent to the 5 golf courses in the Town.

The Concern that Affects Everyone in Cary

The current Cary Noise Ordinance states:

Except as provided in sections 22-105 (exceptions) or 22-109 (relating to amplified noise), it shall be unlawful for anyone to create or cause a sound that exceeds 60 dB(A) affecting any occupied residential structure or unit other than the unit occupied by the person creating the sound.”

The new Cary Noise Ordinance adds the following to the measurement section:

“The sound measurement shall be averaged over a period of one (1) minute for purposes of determining the sound level (the “measurement period”). It shall be a violation of this ordinance for the averaged sound measurement to exceed the prescribed dB(A), or for any sound or noise to exceed the prescribed dB(A) level by three (3) or more decibels at any time during the measurement period.” (click here to see new ordinance↑)

Immediate Impacts – For all practical purposes, and for the most offending equipment (backpack blowers, weed wackers, etc.), this raises the nighttime allowable noise limit, everywhere in Cary from 60 dB(A) to 63 dB(A). This may not seem like much, but decibels is not a linear scale. 63 dB(A) is 23% higher in perceived loudness than 60 dB(A). 70 decibels is twice as loud as 60 decibels. 60 decibels is a conversation. 65 decibels is a residential class backpack blower.

Relationship of Decibels to Loudness
Relationship of Decibels to Loudness – a 3 dB increase is a 23% increase in loudness.

This is in itself a significant increase. But it gets worse. Cary measures lawn maintenance noise at the property line of the complainant, not at the noise source (like they do with a noisy muffler on a vehicle). The combination of averaging, the 23% higher limit, and measuring from farther away will very likely mean that backpack blowers, weed wackers and other highly noisy equipment will be legal to operate in Cary anytime day or night, any day of the week, anywhere in Cary.

The Concern that Affects Homeowners Near Cary Golf Courses

The current Cary Noise Ordinance states:

“22-105 Exceptions (10) Lawn Mowers and Landscaping Equipment. Lawn mowers, landscaping equipment, and agricultural equipment used between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday and between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays when operated with all the manufacturer’s standard mufflers and noise-reducing equipment in use and in proper operating condition. The mowing of golf course greens is allowed to begin at 6:00 a.m. during the months of April through September.”

In the new Cary Noise Ordinance “The mowing of golf course greens is allowed to begin at 6:00 a.m. during the months of April through September.” will be changed to the following:
“Typical and routine work to ready a golf course for play beginning at 6:00 a.m. during the months of April through September and at 7:00 a.m. during the months of October through March. Typical and routine work includes the mowing, blowing and raking of all of the course’s playing surfaces, using equipment operated with all the manufacturer’s standard mufflers and noise-reducing equipment in use and in proper operating condition. Typical and routine work does not include the use of chainsaws, chippers, shredders or equipment that is used on a sporadic, irregular basis.”

Immediate Impacts – Saturday and Sunday lawn maintenance in the off-season will begin at 7 am instead of 9 am. In season, starting at 6 am mowing the greens is expanded to mowing, blowing and raking of all of the course’s playing surfaces. The specific addition of “blowing” dramatically increases the noise levels. The commercial backpack blowers used by golf courses are rated at 75 dB(A) (more the twice as loud as residential backpack blowers). The specific addition of  “all playing surfaces” dramatically increases the amount of area being mowed and blowed, hence dramatically increases the amount of time mowers and blowers are operating.

The only chance to get a Noise Ordinance we all can live with is to ask the Town to delay and study these changes further. Sign the Petition requesting a delay↑ before end of day Tuesday July 7, 2015 and Attend the July 9, 2015 Town Council Meeting at 6:30 pm Cary Town Hall.

My Apologies to Golf

Today the swarm of 5 tractor-sized mowers returned to the 5th tee of the Highlands course. You may remember my June 4th blog titled Message Received – Loud and Clear↑ described how at 6:10 a.m. last Thursday a similar swarm of 5 mowers spent 20 minutes, mowing and re-mowing the 5th tee behind my house, presumably to let me know it could be a lot worse than the typical one or two mowers mowing for 5 minutes at 6:50 a.m. to 7 a.m. as has been the norm for years.

Escalating this issue to harassing me and my family was a total surprise. I figured the visit to the clubhouse by two Morrisville Police Officers had helped put this incident into perspective for the club and we would be done with the harassment. I had hoped this was just the result of an overzealous supervisor.

Imagine my surprise when the mowers came back today, but this time at 8:40 a.m. What’s the problem for me if they are coming at 8:40 a.m. when I have been expressing concerns about coming before 7 a.m. you ask? Nothing for me, but it was a real problem for several golfers on the course.

The mowers were literally swarming around the golfers appearing to be as in-their-face of the golfers as possible. One solo golfer pushing his bag was separated from the golfers in carts and he looked particularly threatened. I was reminded of those nature films where the lone baby antelope is separated from the herd and is under attack by a pack of hyenas.

Apparently someone is now trying to send a message to golfers about what they can look forward to if the clubs don’t get the changes they want in the Noise Ordinance. But today’s demonstration is not valid. No one is suggesting the clubs wait until 8 a.m. to start mowing. The issue is about inherently noisy activities before 7 a.m. If they had started mowing at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. the mowers could have stayed ahead of the golfers.

I never thought things would escalate to the point that golfers would be directly impacted. My heartfelt apologies to the golfers on the Highlands course early this morning.

I and some of your neighbors were trying to raise awareness that the proposed changes to the noise ordinance were seriously flawed and needed to be reviewed by all stakeholders. For example, click here to watch the video of Deputy Chief Godwin’s May 5, 2015 testimony that the proposed Noise Ordinance allows golf courses to begin lawn maintenance 7-days per week at 6 a.m. April through September without any decibel limit.↑ This is the loophole golf courses have used, and could continue to use, to allow use of blowers, chippers and chainsaws as early as 6 a.m. any day of the week.

Notice in the video that Cary Mayor Weinbrecht asks Deputy Chief Godwin a clarifying followup question to confirm his understanding, and after hearing Godwin’s reply he comments “interesting.” Yet in numerous emails afterwards to PCA board members the Mayor continues to insist there is a 60/63 decibel limit in place that will control golf course noise (this will be the subject of a separate blog where the email details will be presented).

Please don’t let them play us off against each other. We all want to return to the wonderful community of peacefully co-existing good neighbors we were before the steamroller started pushing the new changes through. I’ll begin by once again apologizing to golfers as I never expected this kind of response from the club I love and the leaders I have personally known for years and genuinely respected.

Message Received – Loud and Clear!

This morning at 6:10 a.m. the management of the SAS↑-owned Prestonwood Country Club sent us a message about our high profile opposition to the changes to the Cary Noise Ordinance requested by Cary’s 3 golf clubs.

5 tractor-sized mowers swarmed 50’ from my bedroom window beginning at 6:10 a.m. The mowers took nearly 20 minutes to mow a few hundred square feet of tee area, moving extremely slowly, often stopping, yet all the while operating at top (most noisy) blade speed, even mowing the same stretch of grass — including the one closest to my window — again and again. They also had mowed the same tee yesterday and Tuesday also beginning at 6:10 a.m.

For years, the tee behind our house got mowed beginning from 6:50 to 7 a.m. by 1 mower, a couple of times a week, taking about 5 minutes. For crews that generally report to work at 6:00 a.m., it normally takes until nearly 7 a.m. to get to the 5th tee since there are 4 other tees and greens between the equipment maintenance center and the 5th tee.

In our view this has now escalated to harassment.

Message received – loud and clear. We also now understand why people have been reluctant to complain about golf course noise.

Nevertheless, we will continue as always to stop using our blower and mower near the tee whenever golfers are on the tee to let them hit in peace. We love golfers and golf. Billionaire bullies, well not so much.

We were able to video a few minutes before we ran out of disk space on the iPhone. Here is the timeline. We were awakened at 6:10 a.m. by the mowers which were generating much more noise, earlier, and longer than usual. I got the video going by 6:15 and recorded for 2.25 minutes. The mowing of the same area continues until almost 6:30 a.m. which is almost 20 minutes of continuous mowing rather than the usual 5 minutes.

The timeline can be independently verified by reviewing my call to Cary PD where the mowers can be easily heard in background for a long time as Cary PD was trying to decide what to do.  The mowers were observed in action by the Morrisville PD and once they crossed into Morrisville the officers issued a warning to the mower operators and to club management. Watch the Video↑.

Keep in mind that we’re on the 5th tee of the Highlands course and lawn maintenance workers generally report to work at 6:00 a.m. To get going and get to the 5th tee by 6:10, they had to be told to go directly to the 5th tee, driving past 4 other tees and greens, to make sure the mower swarm awoke us as early as possible. This seems like a very strong indicator of mischievous intent.

Some in Cary leadership have indicated that this whole situation is “business as usual” and we can rely on the golf courses to be, as Matt Massei, Prestonwood’s manager, said to ABC11 News last Friday↑, “good stewards of the community.”

This feels more like bullying and intimidation than good stewardship.

Cary Golf Course Noise – Point, Counter Point

The following is a point, counter point discussion of the issues and various views on the staff recommended — and given preliminary approval by the Cary Town Council — changes to the Cary Noise Ordinance.

Point 1 – All Golf Courses Do It.

Counter Point 1 – Town Staff has recently conducted a phone survey of golf courses they say confirms all but one of the golf courses in the area they contacted start lawn maintenance before 7 a.m. regardless of their city’s noise ordinance start times. Notwithstanding the weakness of a public policy driven by “everybody’s doing it,” this unilateral survey is likely flawed as a basis for policy making.

A conversation we had with a club manager describes Town Staff just asking about their preferred practices, not being very specific, and not asking about any noise mitigation potentials. They are essentially asking when do you start lawn maintenance each morning. While we understand that crews arrive, are moved into position, and start some work before 7 a.m. — and we have no problem with that — the real issue is when and where do they start the noisier activities and do they really have no option but to do this before 7 a.m.

It turns out that the “where” is almost as interesting as the “when.” Apparently golf courses have designated “hot spots,” which are apparently near the homes of citizens that have complained about noise. Many managers make an effort to mitigate early morning noise at hot spots (see testimony of David Dalton, Dir. Golf Maintenance, Prestonwood golf course – time code 1:01:48 video May 5, 2015 Town Council meeting↑).

The existence of hot spots suggests several things. The problem is pervasive enough to be incorporated into routine golf course procedures and golf courses can and do modify operations to mitigate noise. Of course this survey only reflects one stakeholder’s view and only really establishes what the golf courses want to do, and are doing in the absence of any enforcement.

Point 2 – No One Has Been Complaining to Leadership.

Counter Point 2 – Citizens quickly learned of the futility of getting a violation written when calling the Cary police department regarding golf course noise. The Cary police department would respond and diligently try to get everyone satisfied, but in the absence of any citations, problems continued (we don’t believe this is through any malingering of the police department, but the result of basic flaws in the noise ordinance).

Citizens contacting golf course management directly has more or less some success depending on the club and the manager, but results were inconsistent. Up to now golf course noise hasn’t shown up on Cary leadership and staff’s radar because of a series of understandings, enforcement procedures, and special accommodations between golf course management and individual homeowners that has kept this issue out of view. But is this the proper basis for public policy, regulation, and enforcement?

The possibility of a new less-citizen-friendly ordinance, omnipresent possibility of changes in golf course ownership/management, and mounting citizen frustrations over ineffective enforcement could easily push this issue to the tipping point.

Point 3 – You Made Your Deal, Now Accept It.

Counter Point 3 – Cary Council Member Don Frantz and others have made the argument that “you made your deal when you chose to live on the golf course.” (see March 12, 2015 Council meeting video time code 1:15:55↑). But the deal we made was based on the fact that since 1994 the Cary ordinance was 6 a.m. mowing the greens in season. The ordinance was NOT mowing AND blowing on all playing surfaces year round. This is why I chose to live on the tee, not the green. The Town is now changing the deal 20 years after it’s been made, which greatly diminishes the validity of this argument.

Point 4 – The Town is Being Objective and Balanced.

Counter Point 4 – We offer the following 8 reasons why we believe that thus far some Leadership and Staff in Cary have not been objective and balanced when it comes to golf course noise.

  1. In a note to PCA President Alan Knuckles↑, and copied to all Town Council members, Cary Mayor Weinbrecht described adding blowers to the definition of mowing, redefining greens as all playing surfaces, and changing not to exceed 60 dB(A) to an 60 dB(A) over 60 seconds not to exceed 63 dB(A) as nothing more than reducing “ambiguities.” These are material changes that will significantly increase the noise load on homeowners and clearly more than reducing “ambiguities.” In that same note, Mayor Weinbrecht said “that council has been reviewing this change for months in public meetings.” However, at the time the note was sent, there had been only 17 minutes of public meetings on the Noise Ordinance and much of that was describing what the golf courses wanted. Specifically the only public meetings where the Noise Ordinance was discussed was for approximately 6 minutes in the October 30, 2014 Town Council meeting↑ and for 11 minutes in the March 12, 2015 Town Council meeting↑. Although the Mayor said he wanted to hold public meeting in the October 30, 2014 Town Council meeting↑ these were never held. Just as the Mayor was significantly understating the impact of changes, he was seriously overstating the public’s involvement.
  1. Citizen stakeholders were not invited to fact-finding meetings with Leadership, Staff and golf courses. Only golf courses are being called and surveyed as to their practices and preferences, not citizens.
  1. Just a few days before the all important Cary Town Council meeting where they were to vote on Staff Recommendations regarding the Noise Ordinance, the Staff made a 180 degree turn from a citizen-friendly position to a golf-course-friendly position (they acknowledge this in the Staff report↑). No citizen stakeholders were contacted about the abrupt reversal. There are to be no public hearings. A last minute change to a citizen unfriendly position and a rush to a vote is a tactic that can be used avoid citizen input and undermine citizen engagement. Whether coincidental or by design, the results are the same. There has not been a reasonable time period for citizens to engage on the important issue.
  1. Staff recommended changes in key definitions positioned as clarifications. We’re confident that asking any golfers where the “greens” are will get us directed to the putting greens, not any playing surface, and in asking any golfer to point out a “mower,” they will not point to a backpack blower. It is clear these are not simple clarifications but material changes that will significantly increase the intensity, duration, and scope of noise impacts on neighborhoods.
  1. Staff recommended changes in key measurements positioned as clarifications. We’re confident the current language of the ordinance of “not to exceed 60 dB(A)” is clear and the recommendation to use an average over 60 seconds and a not to exceed limit of 63 dB(A) is quite simply a raising of the allowable noise level. Decibels is not a linear scale. 60 dB(A) is a normal conversation and 65 dB(A) is a backpack blower.↑ 70 dB(A) is nearly twice as loud as 60 dB(A).
  1. The 3 Cary golf courses initiated the request for changes in the Noise Ordinance in a letter to Mayor Weinbrecht in October 2014 according to an article in the Cary News↑. Cary Leadership had nearly 7 months to hold public hearings and gather citizen input, but this was not undertaken. From the time the Staff issued their report after changing 180 degrees from a citizen-friendly position to a golf course-friendly position to approval of these Staff recommendations by the Town Council took less than a week.
  1. Cary Leadership apparently ignored the request of Preston Community Association (PCA) Alan Knuckles sent the day of the May 5, 2015 Town Council meeting to delay the vote until the PCA could catch up and review the new Staff recommended changes. Also, as reported by the Cary News↑, Cary Leadership also apparently ignored Morrisville Mayor Stohlman request to not rush the approval of the Staff recommendations. From the Cary News; “Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman also emailed Cary Council members before the May 5 meeting to ask that they reconsider the town staff’s recommendation to loosen some rules. ‘The Prestonwood course is split between Cary and Morrisville. In reading the briefing material, I honestly don’t know if the staff recommendations improve the situation for our residents,’ Stohlman wrote,. ‘If anything, if seems to make matters worse. We may expect those that live on a golf course to accept course maintenance noise as a part of deal, but the significant change in direction in staff’s recommendations needs more review,’ he wrote.” Perhaps more telling than not acting on theses requests was the complete failure to even acknowledge these concerns existed. It was known by Council members that there were major concerns expressed by leaders of large groups of affected citizens, yet these concerns were never mentioned in the Town Council discussion on May 5, 2015 that specifically spoke of the apparent lack of citizen concern.
  1. May 21, 2015 on or about 6:50 a.m. mowers were active on the 5th tee of the Highlands course of Prestonwood Country Club. Since the current Noise Ordinance specifically states only greens can be mowed before 7 a.m. we called Cary Police. The response was quick and very professional (Officer Dwyer Event# 15021082). This time there was no Catch-22 hand-off to Morrisville as in previous calls. Officer Dwyer was very knowledgeable regarding the Noise Ordinance and we specifically talked about the golf course Exception. He told us he could not do anything because the Cary PD has made the administrative decision to define “greens” as “any playing surface.” Cary PD was sufficiently confident the changes in the Noise Ordinance will become law in the future that on May 7, 2015 — just 2 days after the Town Council meeting — they began using the new definitions to make decisions about enforcement.

These 8 occurrences demonstrate in our view a proactive agenda of some Cary Leadership and Staff on behalf of the golf courses.

Conclusion

We need to take the time to objectively develop a new and better noise ordinance where no one gets everything they want, but everyone gets what they can live with… which is the one universal indicator of good government. Right now the golf courses are getting everything they want and the citizens are simply worse off.