First test of lawmaking for county

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Shelby County Commissioners may flex their lawmaking muscle again after passing the county’s new noise ordinance, which authorizes local law agencies to levy misdemeanor criminal charges against violators.

According to commission chairman Lindsey Allison, the noise ordinance is the first test for the county’s limited home rule, granted by the state in November 2001.

&uot;We sought out limited home rule, so that we could do things like this,&uot; Allison said about the noise ordinance. &uot;It’s our first test case.&uot;

County Attorney Frank C. &uot;Butch&uot; Ellis said prior to Shelby County’s limited home rule, criminal penalties and fines were only permitted through statewide legislation.

Counties had no authority to pass local bills that included criminal penalties.

While limited home rule allows Shelby County to bypass Montgomery and make some of its own laws, it also allows citizens to work closer to home when they have problems with such laws.

Rather than negotiating state legislative hoops in Montgomery, county residents work directly through the county commission when they want to change the law, Allison said.

So far, Allison has talked with residents with three different viewpoints on the noise ordinance: those who want it; those who don’t mind it; and those who are completely against it.

Most of the people completely opposed to the noise ordinance live in rural parts of the county, Allison said.

&uot;I have been approached by a couple of rural residents who are deadly opposed to it. They see this as more legislation,&uot; Allison said.

Some municipalities, including Birmingham, have tuned into Shelby County’s new noise ordinance to see how residents respond.

Allison said Birmingham has talked to her about adopting a similar, discretionary ordinance, rather than one based on decibel levels.

For example, Section 3 of the new ordinance prohibits &uot;the playing of any radio … which prduces … sound at such a volume as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of any person …&uot;

The commission could adopt other ordinances with criminal repercussions regarding other issues, such as illegal dumping, under its limited home rule.

&uot;I would not be surprised if something came out of that,&uot; Allison said of a new ordinance banning illegal dumping.