Local judge rules that Bluffton noise ordinance is constitutional

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Local judge rules that Bluffton noise ordinance is constitutional

By RENEE DUDLEY rdudley@islandpacket.com 843-706-8138
Published Wednesday, May 20, 2009 in The Island Packet  |  338 Words  |  news/local

Bluffton's new noise ordinance survived an initial court challenge last week by the owner of a popular restaurant who contended the law was unconstitutional.
Bluffton Municipal Court Judge Fletcher Johnson ruled that the ordinance is constitutional during a hearing May 14 that sought dismissal of one noise citation, Clerk of Court Lisa Cunningham said Wednesday.
The law, which took effect in January, was challenged by Ibrahm Ahmetoglu, the owner of Pepper's Porch. Pepper's Porch, a May River Road restaurant and bar, has been cited multiple times over late-night noise problems and has been called a "repeat offender" in the past by Bluffton police. Lt. Bryan Norberg did not know Wednesday how many times police have been called to the restaurant since the law took effect.
Pepper's Porch has been cited at least twice since then -- once in January and again in February, Cunningham said.
A legal brief filed Feb. 3 by Ahmetoglu'sattorney, Christopher Geier of Vaux & Marscher, asked that the January noise citation be dismissed because the ordinance is "unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable" and "objectively unreasonable." The ordinance "fails to provide a sufficient warning as to what is prohibited," according to the brief.
Geier, Ahmetoglu and Johnson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The question of whether the restaurant violated the ordinance will be heard in municipal court July 16, Cunningham said.
The previous ordinance required police to use a noise meter to determine whether residents or businesses were too loud. That equipment was outdated and did not detect lower noises, such as thumping bass, according to police.
The new ordinance allows officers to use their judgment in writing tickets.
The new rule also gives police the authority to cite individuals for making too much noise without issuing a warning first.
Previously, officers were required to warn offenders before issuing each daily citation.
Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days.