Chattanooga City Council meets with police chief pick, amends off-road vehicle noise rule

Chattanooga City Council meets with police chief pick, amends off-road vehicle noise rule

August 16th, 2017 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

David Roddy, Mayor Andy Berke's choice as Chattanooga's next police chief, speaks with the city council.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Chattanooga set to curb off-road vehicle noise

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The Chattanooga City Council made a few tweaks to a new off-road vehicle noise ordinance Tuesday and got in some question-and-answer time with David Roddy, Mayor Andy Berke's choice for the city's next police chief.

Last week, the council voted 9-0 to approve regulations that prohibit people from making more than 70 decibels of sound — about what a dishwasher makes — when operating dune buggies, dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and utility vehicles on residential property.

On Tuesday, the council voted 9-0 in favor of amending that ordinance to specify residential off-road vehicle noise levels would need to exceed 70 decibels for "no less than 30 seconds" to qualify as a violation. Police called to the scene of such a noise complaint will use sound meters at property lines to determine if riders — and property owners who allow off-road riders to use their land — have broken the city sound code.

Council Vice Chairman Ken Smith, who recommended the amendment, said he was prompted to do so after using a sound meter to check out the noise levels his son made while riding a dirt motorbike back at their home.

Manager Jeff Griffith poses for a portrait on a motorcycle at Griffith Cycle on Dodds Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Griffith, whose family runs the business, voiced concerns at a recent city council meeting about a proposed off-road vehicle noise ordinance.

Manager Jeff Griffith poses for a portrait on...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The motorbike would briefly exceed 70 decibels as his son rode close to him, but not the entire time he rode over the property, Smith said.

Other parts of Chattanooga's noise codes consider how long a noise has been made, such as how long a dog can bark, before the noise is considered it a nuisance violation.

As part of the amendment package, the council also approved a requirement by the police department to report on the ordinance's effectiveness a year after it goes on the books.

Councilman Chip Henderson, who sponsored the ordinance, described the changes as improvements.

In an earlier discussion with the council, Deputy City Attorney Phillip Noblett praised members' consideration for adding a time element to the off-road vehicle noise ordinance.

"That's probably something wise to consider, just as to how long that decibel amount should be allowed before it becomes a nuisance," Noblett said.

Last week, Jeff Griffith, whose family runs Griffith Cycles, told the council the noise level was not attainable.

"I might suggest you have a decibel limit that is more reasonable, as no [off-road vehicle] meets that 70-decibel mark," Griffith said. "There are very, very quiet machines that do not meet 70 decibels."

The council votes on the amended noise ordinance a second and final time on Aug. 22. It also votes on Roddy's nomination as the city's top cop that day.

Earlier in the day, the council spent about 40 minutes talking with Roddy about his vision and plans for the Chattanooga Police Department, touching upon the department's relationship with the community and diversity within the department itself.

Roddy said he plans to move forward with a number of initiatives developed during the tenure of Fred Fletcher, who retired in July after serving as police chief for three years.

He said the department's use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a firearms database, will be augmented through the proposed addition of 14 officers dedicated to investigating gun-related crimes. The intention is to help build stronger cases for state prosecution.

Roddy said the department continues to seek to better understand and remove barriers to those who want to serve. He said those efforts involved a lot of one-on-one follow-up phone calls to people who fell short of qualifying in a previous police academy.

As a result, the academy that begins at the end of August "potentially has about [a] 61 percent white, 31 percent African-American and 9 percent Hispanic ratio," Roddy said.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.