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1:47 PM Wed, Sept. 19th

Prescott council eyes new noise regulations

PRESCOTT – A less-intense version of an amendment to the city's noise regulations got positive reviews from the Prescott City Council this week.

At their Tuesday study session, council members appeared receptive to a change in the city's noise ordinance that would prohibit a number of disturbances. The council likely will vote on the issue at its next Tuesday meeting.

This week's version of the amendment was considerably less stringent than the one the council reviewed last month. But it still would deal with specific noises, including:

• Problems from boom boxes or loud car stereos.

• Noise from portable rock crushers that disturbs the public peace and quiet.

• Screeching or squealing tires.

• Outdoor loud speakers.

• Night-time outdoor construction noise from blasting, excavation, generators or heavy equipment. The city would allow those noises only from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, unless the City Council approves expanded hours.

In addition, the city code would retain its general prohibition of "unreasonable noise."

City Attorney John Moffitt pared down the amendment after last month's discussion, when some council members voiced concerns about certain prohibitions. Three city departments – the Police Department, Community Development, and Neighborhood Services – also had concerns.

The amendment that originally went to the council included restrictions on such noises as: vehicle horns (except in case of emergency or car alarms); noises from birds or other animals that disturb the public peace; noise from loading or unloading and the destruction of bales, boxes or crates; and routine garbage service, deliveries, and parking lot sweeping.

However, the council instructed Moffitt to remove some of those restrictions from the proposed amendment.

The amendment to the noise ordinance stemmed from the recent Highway 69 Overlay District discussions. The original draft of the overlay included a section on noise control. But council members agreed during the overlay discussion that any noise restrictions should be city-wide, rather than apply to only one part of town.

That brought the matter back to the council as a separate amendment to the city code.

Council members voiced no objections to the revised amendment on Tuesday.

Other issues on the council agenda included:

-Miniature horse exception raises neighborhood concerns

At least one resident who lives near the home of a miniature horse in Willow Lakes Estates has a problem with the City Council's recent support for allowing the small horses to live in residential neighborhoods.

Last month, Leeanna and Ralph Nowakowski appeared before the City Council with their miniature horse, Major, to appeal for a change in the current city law that prohibits such animals from homes with lots of less than a half-acre.

Although the council members took no vote at that time, they instructed Moffitt to bring back a proposed code change that would allow miniature horses of 100 pounds or less at homes with smaller lots.

But George Marchessault, who lives across the street from the Nowakowskis, came to Tuesday's council meeting to voice his opposition to the code change that is under consideration.

"I oppose this amendment," Marchessault said. "I think it would open up a Pandora's box for anyone not restricted by CC&Rs (codes, covenants and regulations)."

Marchessault added that the situation surrounding the horse has caused "Sturm and Drang" in the neighborhood, with neighbors not speaking to one another.

"I think it's a cute little animal, but the area they want to keep it is not adequate," he said.

Mayor Sam Steiger, however, questioned Marchessault's assertion that the change in the law would open a "Pandora's box."

"Do you envision hundreds of miniature horses (in Prescott)?" Steiger asked.

The amendment to the city code will go back to the council for a possible vote on Tuesday.

-Rails-to-trails money available

Nearly $400,000 will go to the city soon for its continuing efforts to buy the old railroad right-of-way that runs from the north end of the current Peavine Trail to Chino Valley.

The Prescott City Council voiced support for an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) that would release $398,000 in federal money to the city.

A memo for the council from the Parks and Recreation Department pointed out that the city got approval for the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) grant in 1997. ADOT, which administers the money, needs an intergovernmental agreement with the city to release the money.

Eric Smith, trails and open space coordinator for Prescott, said the city hired a consultant to conduct the purchase negotiations with the owners of the railroad right-of-way.

The new segment, which starts at Highway 89A and goes north toward Chino Valley, consists of about six miles.