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Some Losing Cool Over Noise in Chapel Hill

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CHAPEL HILL — When you think of noisy places, Chapel Hill probably isn't the first spot that comes to mind. The town's noise problems are heating up, but it's not about loud music or fraternity parties. The culprits are the many machines that keep us cool.

People who live next to a busy street, tend to get used to the sound of traffic, but to those who are used to peace and quiet, even low tones can be a nuisance. The Chapel Hill Town Council is beginning to find out that noise is a relative issue.

The primary reason Chapel Hill has a noise ordinance to begin with is the loud music that traditionally eminates from campus parties, but recently, the issue has gotten a bit more complicated.

Ed Harrison lives about 100 feet from three recently built school buildings with exposed air conditioning systems.

"We don't really feel we can sleep in peace," he says. "Its not like having a hog farm next door to you, but I think its pretty reasonable to expect to be able to sleep with your windows open."

After fielding similar complaints from several homeowners, the Chapel Hill town council enlisted the help of acoustical consultant Dr. Noral Stewart. Thursday morning, he used his high-tech detector to measure the decibel levels from various air conditioners and a fan that runs almost continuously at the Chapel Hill Country Club. All of them have been sources of noise complaints from neighbors.

"Compared to most of the problems we get involved in, these were relatively low noise levels," said Stewart. "They were a problem primarily due to comparison to what was there before."

Ed Harrison and some others say the noise of growth is creeping over the property line.

"There's a federal clean water act, a clean air act, but there's not a federal quiet act," said

Dr. Stewart says he found the noise levels to be about average for most residential areas, but he says he understands that these people bought property expecting better than average serenity. He has recommended that barriers be placed near some of the sources of noise to help block the unwelcome sound.

Chapel Hill's noise committee will now make recommendations to the town council on how to handle the problem.


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