The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 1, 2011

Church, neighbors go to court in conflict over noise ordinance

AIRPORT DRIVE, Mo. — If you make a “joyful noise” in Airport Drive, you need to be in compliance with the village noise ordinance.

And officials of the north campus of Forest Park Baptist Church, of Joplin, say their church services and other activities are just that, but some neighbors disagree.

So the conflict will be decided in the village’s municipal court, where church officials are to appear Oct. 24 on a complaint that music from church services and music practices has violated the noise ordinance.

The complaints came from Keith Green and Fran Siebuhr, who live near the church at 5898 N. Main St. Both men agree the church has made changes to try to muffle the sound, but say the sounds emanating from the church building still are too loud.

‘TOO LOUD’

Mike Kersey, operations pastor for Forest Park, said the church has spent money and time addressing sound issues. But he said the church has never been in violation of the noise ordinance. He said more than 450 people worship each week at the church, which opened in September 2009.

“We were aware of the ordinance before we ever opened that campus, and we have complied with the ordinance in every service and every practice,” he said.

Green and Siebuhr say the church and music from the church praise band have been an issue for more than a year. They said they had talked to church officials and to the village Board of Trustees, and signed complaints after no solution could be worked out in meetings with the board.

“We’ve asked them politely, and they say they’ve made changes,” said Green, who lives at 5901 Elm St., on property that abuts the church.

“It’s just annoying; you can’t read your paper on the back porch or anything like that,” he said.

Siebuhr said his house is about 100 yards away, but he also can hear the band.

‘ESPECIALLY THE DRUMS’

“Especially the drums; it gets pretty loud,” he said. “I don’t mind church music; we go to church.”

Linda Roufs, 5885 Elm St., said her family also has been bothered by the noise, but they have not made formal complaints.

“We didn’t think it would make any difference,” she said. “We’re a little farther away, but you can have all the windows closed and still hear the drums.”

Kersey said the church has spent $20,000 addressing the issue.

“Even though we’re in compliance, we have continued to add digital sound equipment in order to manage certain frequencies at a different level. But we are in compliance, and we were even the day the citation was issued,” he said.

Both the neighbors suggest the metal building housing the church is at least part of the problem.

“I don’t think that kind of building is made to keep sound in; it just vibrates,” Siebuhr said.

NO VIBRATION

Kersey said the church used a sound engineer on the building’s frequencies “to isolate them and pull them out. We are not causing the walls to vibrate.”

He said the church also has used decibel meters to measure sound at services and practices to assure it is within village limits.

Mark Rains, chairman of the village board, said the conflict has prompted the panel to look at revising its noise ordinance.

The decibel limits were part of a model ordinance included in the code adopted by the village. The village does not have a decibel meter, he said.

“We’ve talked about changing the ordinance or whether we should buy a decibel meter, but we haven’t decided anything,” he said.

Chuck Brown, city attorney for Airport Drive, said the conflict is going before a judge because no resolution could be reached.

“Based on complaints alleging that on four separate days the church has violated the village noise code, I’ve prepared what’s called a complaint of information that will be filed sometime next week.” he said.

‘GOOD NEIGHBOR’

Arraignment is set for Oct. 24, when church officials will enter a plea and the matter will be set for trial.

“Residents have come to the board meetings and lodged complaints, and representatives of the church have come,” Brown said. “I think the church has worked to alleviate the noise, but it has not been to the satisfaction of the neighbors.”

Kersey said the church “has done its best to be a good neighbor,” and added that “we’ll continue to do that.”



Three campuses

Forest Park Baptist Church’s main campus is at Seventh Street and Range Line Road in Joplin. It also has a church at Carthage, in addition to its north campus in Airport Drive.

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