REMERTON -- Residents and local bar owners clashed over a variety of issues surrounding the town's nightlife at Thursday's City Council meeting.
Noise levels, litter and property damage were among the topics covered as the town looked for a way to balance the conflicting interests of the parties.
While those in attendance could not agree on the magnitude of or appropriate remedy to late night noise emanating from bars along Baytree Place, all agreed that an objective, enforceable noise ordinance was a key first step in resolving the matter.
Council decided to form a committee of residents, property owners, bar owners and Council members to set some parameters so that Town Attorney Willie Linahan could begin work on a new noise ordinance.
"All we're trying to do is pound out a middle ground," said Councilman Scott Matheson. "Both groups are there and both have to live with each other. We're not making anybody leave."
The issue was brought before the Council during its work session by Tra Williams, owner of Loozie Anna's, one of the bars along Baytree Place. Williams said Remerton's current noise ordinance was far too vague to be effectively enforced and asked Council to amend the law so that decibel levels coupled with distance from the source would be the determining factor in judging compliance.
A group of property owners lead by Ashley Hill argued that because a variety of rental properties were so close to late-night establishments that even low decibel levels could still be a substantial nuisance.
Williams agreed in principle to install either sound baffling materials or a breezeway to further cordon off noise, but stressed he needed an objective ordinance before incurring the expense.
Hill said he would consider double-insulated windows and other options, but again, wanted clear, precise guidelines.
Council member Vinita Bullard said she thought both sides' willingness to compromise left room for an amicable solution to the matter.
"We have to be willing to work together," she said. "If Ashley is willing to put some money in and Tra will do what he can, we'll find something that works, and we'll come up with an ordinance and they'll have to live by it."
Fred Hines, owner of The Pond Shop, cited huge amounts of litter on his and other properties following weekends. Other residents and property owners shared those concerns and mentioned damage to fences, broken glass, public urination and mass pedestrian traffic as other problems associated with Remerton's robust nightlife.
Mayor Al Brooks signed a new town ordinance, approved at the October meeting, to prohibit open containers outside of the bars where purchased and in other public places.
The ordinance makes allowances for porches, decks and patios of bars and contains an exception for festivals and block parties. Council members said they hoped the measure would solve some of the litter problems along interior streets and take away at least one instrument for property damage.
Violation of the ordinance carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and up to 12 months in the Lowndes County Jail.
To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.
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