Noise Ordinance Ruled Vague & Defective

Homeowners in a southwest Omaha neighborhood don’t like what they hear from a judge on Omaha’s noise ordinance.

Douglas County District Judge Thomas Otepka ruled the law is vague and defective. His decision came after Omaha Track Materials appealed a city order to cease operations due to excessive noise. O-T-M breaks old railroad rails into smaller pieces for recycling.

Neighbors across the tracks from the company near 126th & M said noise levels exceed 80 decibels which violate the noise ordinance.

Homeowner Tom Everson said, “It affects property values and quality of life in the area.”

However, Judge Otepka stated city officials didn’t seem sure if the acceptable level of noise was 80 decibels or 60 decibels and that the term adjacent property wasn’t clear in the ordinance.

Judge Otepka wrote in his decision, “It will not be the court that cures the defect in the ordinance. Rather it will be the city council that ultimately changes the law so that it will be understandable—not just for the planning department and zoning board of appeals but persons of ordinary intelligence including the next person who may be considering Omaha as a place to do business."

In a statement to Six On Your Side Omaha Track Material President Terry Peterson said, “O-T-M has always tried to abide by the city’s ordinances as we understood them. We have voluntarily taken numerous measures to reduce our sound footprint which have resulted in significant reductions in peak sound levels in the subdivision. Despite the judge’s recent ruling in our favor we will continue our pursuit of measures to further reduce sound levels.”

Neighbors want the city to appeal or change the ordinance.

Deputy City Attorney Tom Mumgaard said the city has until the end of April to decide which way to proceed.


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