Cumberland County’s population has more than doubled since 1980, with more than 60,000 residents.
As the county continues to see new residents, some members of the Cumberland County Commission wonder if more regulations are necessary, particularly in regard to noise.
“The more citizens we get moving in … the more it is important to have a reasonable limit to noise as it exits your property line,” Rebecca Stone, 3rd District commissioner, told the environmental committee during its Oct. 5 meeting.
Racetrack regulations were not included on the agenda, but the issue was brought up under other business. The issue had been referred to the committee by the commission in August, just before committees were reorganized for the next two years.
A resolution presented at that meeting had provisions for new racetracks, with required set-backs and noise limits: a 1,000-foot setback from neighboring property lines and sound levels at 65 dBa from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 55 dBa from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., as measured from any other property parcel.
The resolution would have also imposed operating restrictions for existing commercial race tracks, preventing them from racing after 11 p.m.
Stone said the committee needed to determine how it wanted to move forward.
The issue was sparked when a new property owner on Sawmill Rd. constructed a practice track for motorcross racing. It has been used only once, neighbors said, but they said the noise it produced was too loud.
The county has established some property standards related to health and safety of neighbors, with an investigatory board, the Health and Safety Standards Board, charged with addressing those complaints.
Stone said this committee could be the panel to hear noise complaints.
“Like any other health hazard, there is a noise level that affects property values and the lifestyles of the citizens around,” Stone said.
She didn’t anticipate there would be many instances where there would be a problem with noise, particularly with existing facilities.
“There just needs to be a standard set,” Stone said. “I think we can find a reasonable noise level.”
She said she didn’t want to “over-regulate” property owners or interfere with existing racetracks.
She proposed to simplify the resolution presented in August, make it easy to enforce and provide an opportunity for neighbors to consent to any new venture.
As a starting point, she said she had asked local law enforcement about noise levels. The city of Crossville uses a decibel reading of 85 dB. She said noise should be measured on neighboring property, when it impacts others.
David Gibson, 4th District commissioner, said some property owners feel the commission is trying to regulate property ownership.
“And when they buy a piece of property, they can’t do nothing with it,” he said.
A resident of Sawmill Rd. said there wasn’t an issue with people riding four-wheelers or farm equipment. But, he said there should be consideration for the people who “were there first.”
“I don’t want something every Sunday and I can’t have peace,” he said.
John Patterson, 9th District representative, said the commission should consider time limits even for the existing commercial tracks. He said he’d had complaints of racing continuing until 2 a.m. or later.
“We need to consider that all racing operations cease at 11 o’clock,” he said.
Individuals associated with local tracks had told commissioners in August they sometimes needed to race later due to weather delays or other delays. The participants also travel long distances to take part in the races.
Gibson said commissioners needed to consider the revenue related to those businesses.
“They’ve been here ever since I was a small child. At this moment, all these places are bringing tax money into this county,” he said.
“I think there is a big difference between someone buying a home near an existing business … and buying property in an existing neighborhood and changing everybody’s quality of life,” Stone said.
Stone was tasked with developing proposals for discussion at the next meeting of the environmental committee, which has been set for Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Cumberland County Courthouse.
The committee took no action on a request to lower the speed limit on Cumberland Lakes Dr. from 55 mph to 35 mph.
Jerry Cooper, 7th District commissioner, said about 75% of the property owners had signed a petition asking for the change.
“We’ve got a speeding problem on Cumberland Lakes Dr.,” Cooper told the committee. “I’ve talked to the sheriff. He agrees it should be a lower speed.”
Cooper said County Highway Supervisor Scott Blaylock was also in agreement with the request.
Stone said the procedures for setting a speed limit on a county road included a petition with all the property owners in agreement and consultation with the sheriff’s office and highway department on the proposed speed.
She asked for a copy of the petition.
Gibson said the committee also needed to confirm the road had been adopted as a county road.
Cooper agreed to wait on the matter, since no members of the community were present to discuss their request. That will provide time to complete paperwork.
Gibson added residents needed to be advised that setting a lower speed limit would not guarantee a sheriff’s deputy would always be available for enforcement.