Elevate Church members and their attorney responded en masse Nov. 19 to neighbors’ complaints that music from the church is disrupting the peace in the neighborhood.
A few hundred church members filled Freedom Hall for the public comment portion of the Village Board meeting. Most stood because all the available seats were taken.
Several neighbors told board members Nov. 5 they feel that music, specifically bass and drums, coming from the church during services and other times is too loud. They said police were called 55 times in 16 months.
Peoria attorney Bob Hall disputed the neighbors’ noise claims, saying a sound study commissioned by the church showed that in a “worst-case scenario,” music coming from the church would be no louder on its lot line than a conversation between two people from 25 feet away.
He also said the church has taken steps to lower the sound.
About 800 people typically attend Sunday services, Hall said, and the number climbs to as high as 2,000 on holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Many are young families.
When the church moved into the formerly vacant building at 1060 E. Jackson St. several years ago, Hall said, there were only about 70 members.
“About 70 percent of the members are Morton residents, and I’m sure they have the values as you do,” he said to the board. “They want to be good neighbors.”
Art Netherton of 377 N. Oregon Ave. said the noise problem has improved, but he said the bass sound coming from the church makes his bathroom floor shake.
He also complained about church members cutting through his yard.
The neighbors came to the board meeting earlier this month because board members are considering changes to the village’s noise ordinance.
No vote has been taken on the ordinance because input is still being gathered.
“There’s no rush,” said board member Randy Belsley.
Noises that are “unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary” are banned in the revised ordinance.
The noises must unreasonably disturb, injure or endanger the “comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of reasonable persons of ordinary sensitivity.”
There are several exemptions.
Noises from properly functioning building, maintenance and landscaping equipment, indoor and outdoor gatherings, dances and sporting events, and church bells would be allowed between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
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So would normal noises emanating from heating and cooling equipment, motor vehicles, warning devices, emergency vehicles, emergency repairs and trains without restricted hours.
The village’s superintendent of public works can authorize construction activity before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. for the safety of workers during hot summer days.
Hall objected to an exemption without restricted hours for “reasonable activities conducted on village, park or school grounds,” saying it was discriminatory against private organizations like a church.
Elevate member Chris Toews said the church just wants to be treated fairly.
“We’re not causing any more noise than a football game or a soccer game,” he said.
In other news, the board:
• Approved several ordinances at the meeting.
The ordinance for the new residential ordinance was approved, 4-0.
The new zoning ordinance, called R-1A, will let contractors make houses requiring 65 feet width with a total minimum of 8,000 square feet.
The other possible new zoning classification, R-1B, which featured even less square footage, was not voted on.
However, it was noted by the board that this ordinance may want to be looked at in the future to make housing easier to build in certain locations in Morton.
An ordinance was also approved for the levy and assessment of taxes for the fiscal year from May 1, 2012-April 30, 2013.
Durflinger said the approval was the first step in the levy process, and that homeowners can expect to see a 3 percent increase because of the law that governs it.
Ordinances were also approved for the IMLRMA contribution agreement and an amendment to the plan of operation and governance.
• Heard a proclamation from Durflinger.
Durflinger proclaimed that last Saturday was Small Business Saturday and encouraged residents to shop locally when they could, and regionally when they could not.
• Heard a presentation from the Illinois Department of Transportation regarding the interstate construction set to start in 2013.
The construction will last until 2015.
Read more about the construction at http://www.mortontimesnews.com/article/20121031/NEWS/121039919/
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— Adam Larck contributed to this story