Durham, N.C. — Residents of the Hills at Southpoint neighborhood in south Durham told a Superior Court judge on Friday that the praise occurring in a nearby church is a bit loud and needs to be toned down.
Hundreds of people attend Sunday services at Newhope Church, at 7619 Fayetteville Road, which include 20 minutes of worship music.
"It's typically a thumping bass that penetrates our homes and property," said Greg Prospero, one of the nearby residents who took the church to court to settle noise complaints.
Another resident, who is pregnant, was in tears after the court hearing, saying she feared her baby would be repeatedly awakened by the church music.
The residents want the church to pull the plug on amplified music and limit percussion for 10 days while both sides figure out an appropriate level for the music. Judge Bryan Collins said he wanted to review information presented by both sides before ruling Feb. 18.
Church officials said they have made several attempts to reduce the sound since 2011, including hiring sound engineers who have run tests as recently as last Sunday.
The engineers concluded that the sound during church services was less than 60 decibels at the church's property line, which is allowable under Durham's noise ordinance.
Rev. Benji Kelley, pastor of Newhope Church, said in an affidavit that the church also has installed sound-absorbing material inside and plans a major renovation that would line offices along exterior walls to reduce noise levels outside further.
"The sound levels coming from the church are not unreasonably loud or disturbing," Kelley said. "Although we have been and remain in compliance with applicable law, we are neighbors to the five families who have filed this lawsuit. We are making modifications to our church building plans to include sound attenuation materials, not because of legal necessity but out of love for our neighbors."
Church spokeswoman Renita McCrary said Friday that she and others have gone to some Hills at Southpoint homes during services to check on sound levels.
"I didn't hear anything unreasonable," McCrary said, adding that some nearby residents also have attended services to hear the music inside the church. "We're just looking forward to getting this done, making sure we get the word out that we love God."