WARNER ROBINS -- Stuart Barker figures he may be the only person in the United States with legal problems related to karaoke.
Barker filed an appeal in Houston County Superior Court this month, hoping to reverse a decision against him that found he’d violated Warner Robins’ noise ordinance.
But rather than being bitter about the fight, Barker is praising Warner Robins government leaders who are working to replace the city’s noise ordinance.
City Attorney Jim Elliott won’t agree with Barker that the current ordinance is unconstitutional, but he says his proposal to replace the noise ordinance with one that has clear, specific, technical measurements of noise will be better.
“Any time you have a specific, ascertainable standard, it’ll be an easier case for everybody,” Elliott told The Telegraph.
City Council is expected to review Elliott’s proposal next month. Among other restrictions, it would prohibit noises louder than 60 dBA, a measure of sound, near homes and other noise-sensitive facilities between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Overnight sound levels couldn’t exceed 55 dBA. Higher noise levels would be allowed around businesses and factories.
The current ordinance reads in part that “The creating of any unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise within the limits of the city is prohibited.” Barker has argued in court that that’s too vague to be enforced.
But in a ruling, Municipal Court Judge Fred Graham pointed toward a section that prohibits the playing of radios “with such volume ... as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons” in homes, businesses or nearby. Graham gave Barker a $330 fine.
Graham also agreed that Barker wasn’t actually running the sound April 10 when he was given a citation at Chevy’s, a Russell Parkway nightclub. Jack Morris, who was running the sound system that day, told the Warner Robins City Council this month that they’d been trying to deal with a neighbor who has complained when only two employees were in Chevy’s listening to a jukebox.
“There’s nothing in writing in the ordinance with a written dB level,” Morris told City Council members. “We were trying to come up with a solution for everybody so we can comply with the law. ... With no dB level written into the law, it could just be a wide-open problem.”
The Telegraph could not reach the neighbor who has complained.
Barker told The Telegraph the current law leaves the door open to police cars and ambulances getting citations for running with sirens.
“If the city wants to do fireworks, are you going to sue them? Or if a plane flies from the Air Force base, are you going to shut them down?” he asked.
Barker said other cities have ordinances with objective standards. He said Elliott, Mayor Randy Toms and council member Chuck Shaheen are working to address the problem, and he called them heroes for their efforts.
Elliott said he hadn’t been served with a copy of Barker’s appeal yet.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.