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Is all quiet?

Loud noises and smelly fumes are considered a nuisance by most. That’s the premise behind the recently-proposed nuisance ordinance in the town of Pine Plains. More than a noise ordinance, the proposed law would target minibikes and motorbikes that make their way through the small hamlet on a regular basis.

It’s not like the bikes are revving and running only in the country, where noise and other nuisances are dealt with more easily. Instead, according to town Supervisor Darrah Cloud, they’re operating in the hamlet, made up of neighborhoods with private homes and small businesses.

It’s keeping some residents from enjoying life in peace and quiet, she added.

One resident, former town Councilman and Pine Plains police officer Bob Couse, criticized the board for entertaining the ordinance, claiming it’s the result of one unhappy property owner’s single complaint.

But Cloud said that’s not accurate. She said the complaint is longstanding, and that everyone who lives in town has the right to expect to do so without annoyances.

Here’s the thing: the Town Board is taking the appropriate steps in investigating and pursuing a nuisance ordinance. It’s already talking about holding public hearings to gauge the community’s stance on the issue. We think that’s a good idea, and commend the board for taking on what could turn out to be an unpopular law.

On the other hand, there are plenty of residents who want their peace and quiet protected — after all, that’s why we all live in this part of the county. Loud noises, smelly fumes — that’s not what most people want to hear and smell when they go to bed at night, or when they’re working during the day.

A compromise might be in order, and that’s how government should work. As Couse said, it is majority rule. If one person alone is bothered by the bikes, then taking town-wide action is probably not the best idea. But if there are others, if there’s a consensus of sorts that the bikes are problematic, taking action is probably advisable.

Councilwoman Sarah Jones was adamant about wanting public input — and holding those much-needed public hearings. Jones is always hyper-aware that the board is governing for the good of the community, which is good news for residents of Pine Plains. She, her fellow board members and Attorney to the Town Warren Replansky will undoubtedly do their due diligence in considering the law, drafting it and potentially adopting it. 

Unlike Couse’s comments that the investigation into such an ordinance is “outrageous,” we think it bodes well for the town. The board should be paying attention to its citizens’ concerns,  and work to address them.  That’s how small towns — all towns — should work. So long as those who are being evaluated, i.e. the motorbike or minibike owners and operators, are treated fairly, we don’t see a problem here. 

If, after all is said and done, a law is adopted, the next issue will be its enforcement. Such ordinances can be tough to enforce, and measuring offenses can be tricky. But once such codes are on the books it at least it gives law enforcement some teeth and provides an important tool in keeping law and order. 

Bottom line: A nuisance ordinance could equate to all being quiet on the home front — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.