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Wednesday, July 18, 2007 09:48 am

Volume control

Freshman alderman pushes through noise ordinance

Untitled Document When Kris Theilen was campaigning for a seat on the City Council, he polled Ward 8 residents about their biggest concerns and kept track of their answers. After hearing about everything from the flouting of school-zone speed limits to the lack of police presence in area neighborhoods, Theilen says it soon became obvious that booming car stereos were one of the ward’s main problems. “The loud stereos had the runaway [vote],” Theilen says. “I had 250 hash marks for vehicle noise, from at least 250 different homes in Ward 8, and it seemed like nobody else was addressing it.”
After hearing countless stories from residents telling of shaking windows and rattling china cabinets, Theilen decided that enough was enough. He drafted a vehicle-sound-device ordinance, and it was unanimously approved by the council Tuesday. The new ordinance states that if a vehicle’s stereo is creating a nuisance within 75 feet of a public area, the driver of the vehicle will be subject to a $250 fine on the first offense, a $500 fine on the second offense, and a $750 fine plus impoundment of the vehicle on the third offense.
Theilen modeled the ordinance on a successful Peoria law and originally strengthened it to call for impoundment of the offending vehicle on the second offense. He agreed to amend the ordinance after Ward 7 Ald. Debbie Cimarossa balked at the stiff penalty during Monday’s meeting of the public-affairs and safety committee. “I just think that’s really stringent,” she said. “I’m not advocating that car stereos are not a problem, because they are — they’re a serious problem. I just think it seems really steep to take the car.”
Theilen introduced another amendment requiring that written notice be sent to the owner of the vehicle after an offense when other aldermen voiced concerns that teenage drivers would be receiving citations while jamming in their parents’ cars. Although he agreed with the requested changes, Theilen says that the threat of vehicle impoundment must stick. “You can’t take the teeth out of the ordinance,” Theilen says. “If you talk to Peoria, the reason they are having success is because of the threat of the car being taken away. I honestly hope we don’t have to take the car away — I hope the threat will be enough.”
Theilen has received community support for the ordinance, especially from residents in trouble spots such as Golf Road, Veterans Parkway, Lawrence Avenue, and Monroe Avenue. He says that people on MacArthur Boulevard told him, “If you can do anything, it would be amazing, because we’ve been complaining about it for years.”
Theilen also hopes that the ordinance will help solve other problems, as it did for Peoria, but will be satisfied if noise in Springfield is dialed down a notch. “When you’re out at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. enforcing the ordinance, you’ll find other things going on — DUIs, warrants,” Theilen says. “It would be a nice benefit, but my main concern is helping the people of Springfield who are at their wits’ end.”

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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