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Complaints spark Ogle to consider noise ordinance

Action will be taken next month; increase in complaints in past 4-5 months

The Ogle County Board discussed instituting a noise ordinance for unincorporated areas of the county at its Tuesday meeting.

Vice-Chairman Patricia Nordman (R, Oregon) said the noise ordinance was brought up because of an increase in complaints over the past 4-5 months. The only noise ordinance the county has on its books deals with barking dogs.

“The goal is for it to be enforced independently or jointly by the sheriff’s office, Ogle County Health Department and planning and zoning,” Nordman said.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle said the idea stemmed from multiple noise complaints each week about Sledgehammer’s, a bar located on Illinois 2 north of Oregon. Deputies have been receiving complaints from residents in the area, VanVickle said.

Sledgehammer’s owner Jason Stombaugh was arrested Aug. 16 at the business for disorderly conduct after a resident filed a noise complaint.

“On Sunday a resident contacted us to file charges for disorderly conduct,” VanVickle said. “The deputy who responded did an investigation and thought the complaints met requirements for an arrest.”

VanVickle said noise complaints have been “ongoing” since Sledgehammer’s reopened in March and “haven’t slowed down.”

Stombaugh was released on an I-bond.

Stombaugh told Ogle County Newspapers last month that he’s been trying to stop the noise complaints by stopping bands at 10 p.m. and abiding by “state ordinance rules.”

“Actually having a noise ordinance in place would help us more than it would hurt us,” Stombaugh said in an earlier interview. “This is a commercially-zoned property. We have different standards. It would allow us to continue to operate without the consistent harassment.”

The current ordinance the county is considering would be for noises that disturb people over 500 feet away. It would take effect from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The ordinance would apply to permanent establishments and would exclude temporary things like a football game’s PA speakers. For enforcement, an initial complaint would be a warning that’s explained, investigated to be valid with the responsible party identified.

A later violation would include the responsible party being notified. Fines start at $500 and increase to $500-$1,000 and a max of $1,000 for second and third violations. There could be exceptions for ByronFest and the Ogle County Fair.

Board Member Thomas K. Smith (R, Rochelle) asked if the noise ordinance would be tied into the liquor commission during discussion due to the possibility that bars could violate it. Chairman John Finfrock (R, Mt. Morris) said it would be looked into.

Ogle County State’s Attorney Eric Morrow said violators would have to be found guilty or convicted by a judge.

“It sounds like a good framework and my team can review it for legal requirements,” Morrow said.

Finfrock wants the board to vote on the ordinance at next month’s meeting in order to get “on top” of the complaints. And, he said, VanVickle wants the ordinance in place.

Board member Marcia Heuer (R, Oregon) asked if only county residents could file complaints and wondered if the county itself could file complaints. Nordman said it would likely start with residents’ complaints, but Morrow said a deputy could, in theory, initiate a complaint.

Board Member Stan Asp (R, Mt. Morris) asked if the complaint would be determined by decibel levels.

“We talked about decibel levels and the sheriff said there’s so many variations to measuring that and they’d have to be trained and it’s expensive,” Nordman said. “Five hundred feet is a good distance to know if it’s loud or not.”

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