ALMONT – Almont Township Supervisor Paul Bowman published the agenda for the upcoming December 11 regular board meeting. “Noise Ordinance Enforcement” has top billing on the agenda. Bowman, also, provided the Tribune with additional context for the noise ordinance, which bans the use of ORVs on one’s own property within 50 feet of a property line and further bans all use of machinery without an active building permit.
In an email exchange with the Tribune, Bowman said the issue arose when a resident began to complain about their neighbor. “In December of 2021, we had our first complaint of an off road vehicle (ORV) riding too close to a residence,” Bowman said.
“The Noise Ordinance has contained a provision of how close you could operate an ORV to a residence since 2015. ‘No off-road vehicle shall be operated within 500′ of a residence unless such residence is occupied by the operator of the off road vehicle.’ We all agreed that 500′ was too much.”
Bowman confirmed that he was supervisor in 2015 when the original ordinance passed.
Bowman said that after a year of debate they adopted the new ordinance 63.1 in February of 2023, which the Tribune linked to in our first story. On November 15, they advertised an additional change, targeting ORV use, in the Tri City Times. This new ordinance, Ordinance 63.2 Paragraph B-20, reads, “No off-road vehicle shall be operated within 50 feet of a neighboring property line with a residence.”
In some cases, where homes are far apart, this new restriction can be even more restrictive than the 500 feet from a neighboring residence. In cases of smaller parcels, property owners would not be allowed to pull their ORVs out of their garage if the garage is within 50 feet of a neighbor’s property line.
The ordinance passed in February, Ordinance 63.1, also removed the prior requirement that defined a noise as a nuisance if it exceeded 20 decibels (Db) and instead, determined that the threshold for penalty is if the neighbor believes it is a nuisance. It further removed a prior exception for property maintenance, which allowed a property owner to operate machinery for the purpose of property maintenance without a permit from 8:00am to dusk.
When asked why these protections for property owners were removed, Bowman responded, “The Board chose to remove the decibel measurement section, which included the property maintenance, because it was not defined as to where measurement was to be taken and at what distance.”
Without those protections the current ordinance prohibits the operation of any machinery that a neighbor considers a nuisance, even for the purpose of property maintenance. As the Tribune reported earlier, this could theoretically include lawnmowers and chainsaws.
Bowman told the Tribune, “It was not intended for lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc. but that is now the way some are interpreting this ordinance.”
One Almont Township resident shared the results of his Freedom of Information Act request regarding complaints about ORVs to the police department. Since January 2022, there have been three complaints regarding ORV use on private property – all from the same individual.
Bowman’s email responses seem to indicate that Ordinance 63.2 was adopted in response to this one neighbor’s complaints.
“As with all our ordinances we operate on a complaint basis only,” Bowman said. “The complaint we have had is the continuous noise of ORVs running along their property line.”
Bowman indicated that these ordinances could change further if the public demands it. He said, “I am sure there will be changes, but I do not know what changes or when.”
The Almont Township public meeting will be this coming Monday, December 11 at 7:00pm at 819 N. Main St., Almont, MI. The meeting is open to the public.