2007-01-18 / Front Page

Portage Township

Loud Bars, Cars Cited in Proposed Noise Ordinance
By Paul Gingras

An ongoing discussion of managing noise levels in Curtis continued at the Portage Township meeting Tuesday, January 9, when the board of trustees briefly considered, but did not act upon, a draft noise ordinance that had been compiled by its attorney for review by the township.

The lengthy document is a compilation of ideas gleaned from existing noise ordinances in St. Ignace, Newberry, and other area municipalities. The board plans to change it, if necessary, and vote on the final draft following a public hearing, which has yet not been scheduled. A more extensive discussion on the matter is likely at the February township meeting, said Trustee Mark Devereaux.

Adopting a noise ordinance would change Curtis "very little, if at all," he added. At most, it would quiet down excessive noise produced by downtown businesses that provide musical entertainment, but Mr. Devereaux added that some amount of acceptable noise will always be associated with bars and resorts.

Not only is the ordinance likely to quiet down established businesses, it will also be used to cite people who play loud music from their cars. At times, such noise has been loud enough to rattle windows, he said, leading village residents and business owners to complain.

"They are losing a ton of money," because the noise is dissuading tourism, Mr. Devereaux said.

Potential noise ordinances have been discussed for years in Curtis. The issue was heavily debated at the township meeting Tuesday, August 15.

At that meeting, Kim Bushey, owner of Kim's Tally Ho bar, said that a problem exists because it is not clearly established if Curtis is a resort or retirement town. Businesses like hers, she said, offer an outlet for active people and are good for the economy. Providing musical entertainment is part of the effort, and overly restricting bars could dissuade visitors, she said.

Noise problems are not limited to the Tally Ho, Mr. Devereaux said, although complaints are almost exclusively confined to the downtown area.

Noise produced by snowmobiles and other off-highway vehicles has not been a problem, he added.

Most complaints have been directed to the board and the Michigan State Police, but enforcement is not possible without a standing ordinance.

The draft ordinance calls for a noise control officer, who would investigate complaints and issue tickets to businesses and individuals who violate noise rules. The noise control officer would not necessarily be a police officer, Mr. Devereaux explained. One possible candidate for the duty is the township supervisor.

Many area residents have expressed opinions for and against the noise ordinance. Currently, trustees are combing through a petition signed by 171 people who oppose implementing a noise ordinance. Many of the names and some of the addresses on the list are not from Portage Township, Mr. Devereaux noted, so the board will check and validate the entire list.

Mr. Devereaux is concerned that questions posed to residents who signed the petition may not have reflected the true nature and purpose of the ordinance. This could have led to a number of negative opinions, he said.

Given the number of lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water in the area, Portage Township is considering adding a rescue hovercraft and trailer to its emergency response equipment. The equipment would cost approximately $30,000.

Resident Jim Wicks has provided the board with information on several models, but the project is in its infancy, Mr. Devereaux said. The next step will be to set up a fund for the hovercraft, which will most likely be managed by Township Clerk Marcia McDonald. The hovercraft will be under consideration for the next budget cycle, which begins in June.

There were several positive responses regarding the hovercraft from the public and board members at the meeting, Mr. Devereaux added.

The vehicle would be used by Emergency Medical Service members, such as fire department and ambulance corps personnel. Learning to pilot a hovercraft would require training. They are difficult to manage in high wind or waves, Mr. Devereaux said.

The board authorized ambulance corps member Brad Kohvakka to continue pricing research on automated external defibrillators (AEDs). An AED is a medical shock device used to restore a normal heartbeat, when someone has a heart attack. Members of the public urged the board to purchase new AEDs as soon as possible.

The new equipment will be more high-tech than what the township owns now, Mr. Devereaux said. The Michigan Medical Control Authority requires upgrades by Thursday, March 1. The board will hold a special meeting to discuss its budget and consider AEDs that range from $23,550 for three used devices, to $36,000 for three new ones. One AED will be placed in each of the township's two ambulances, and the third will be kept as a back up.

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