Golf course mowers to challenge county noise regs


Golf is known for civility and whispered antics, but for one Ada County family, the game has become a ferocious beast, driving them prematurely from their peaceful slumber.

Brad Rowen lives right next to the seventh green at the Crane Creek Country Club golf course. For the past two or three years, he has been rudely awakened nearly every summer morning by a team of large mowers and blowers.

While Rowen acknowledges that he chose to live by the links, he thinks the mowing is excessive and excessively early in the morning and has called the Ada County Sheriff's Office about eight times this year to make noise complaints.

"Even the people that live by the airport, it doesn't mean the supersonic jet gets to fly in," Rowen said.

In 1997, Ada County passed a noise ordinance that prohibited "loud or offensive noise" between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. the next day. The noise regulations coincided with the rise of Hawks Memorial Stadium as a concert venue.

Former journalist and legislator Perry Swisher recalls one night when he went over to the fairgrounds in his pajamas with an axe and threatened to cut the speaker cables. Soon after, the ordinance passed.

Crane Creek Country Club, nestled in the Foothills east of Bogus Basin Road, denies it has made loud or offensive noise. Two noise citations issued this summer are set for trial this month.

"When people get out on the golf course, you have to have the golf course ready," said Tony Cantrill, an attorney who represents Crane Creek.

Cantrill said that the county noise ordinance is too subjective.

"We believe it's unconstitutionally vague," Cantrill said. He will argue to dismiss the club's upcoming trial on Constitutional grounds.

County code defines loud or offensive noise as anything that is "plainly audible" to the public at 100 feet away.

Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney agrees the code can be difficult to interpret and enforce, and said he would prefer to have specific decibel levels listed. But when county commissioners quietly changed the noise ordinance two months ago, they did not ask Raney for his opinion, and no one testified at the public hearing.

At the behest of the private golf club, county commissioners amended the noise ordinance on Sept. 2 to allow construction and landscape maintenance noise starting at 6 a.m. during the hot summer months.

Commission chairman Fred Tilman said other businesses had approached the county to request an earlier time as well, though he declined to name any. Tilman also said that the Department of Environmental Quality had suggested allowing an earlier start for mowing in the summer to curb smog, which is compounded by the heat of the day.

The noise did not bother Rowen when he first moved to his home on East Curling Drive, but he says the club is using heavier duty equipment now and mowing the green behind his house earlier in the morning. Now he has two young children and has invested in a decibel meter.

"Why forsake the sleep of the entire county simply because a golf course wants to be environmentally conscious?" Rowen asks.