The Cary Town Council approved new golf course noise rules Thursday in a 4-2 vote after briefly pausing to consider whether the revisions to old rules were made too hastily.
The rules put a new sound limit that maintenance crews cannot exceed; allow crews to use more equipment on more surfaces; and allow crews to start work earlier on weekend mornings October through March.
The council tentatively approved the changes during a meeting on May 5, but then received pushback from some golf course residents who worried the rules would allow maintenance crews to disrupt their sleep.
The Preston Community Association board of directors sent a letter to the council saying it opposed the changes. A Prestonwood resident created a website and paid to publish political cartoons in The Cary News. And, as of Friday, more than 80 people had signed an online petition asking the council to delay approval of the changes.
The council was scheduled to approve the new rules without discussion at its July 9 meeting – the item was on the consent agenda – but council members Ed Yerha and Lori Bush asked for more debate. Bush and Yerha, who voted against the rules in May and again on Thursday, said they wanted a chance to clarify what the rules mean and asked for more time to review them.
“It didn’t seem to be the Cary way to approve it on the consent agenda,” Yerha said. “I wonder if we need further study, more dialogue.”
The council launched a review of the rules in October after some residents complained that noisy golf course crews were disturbing their peace in early morning hours, and managers at MacGregor Downs, Lochmere and Prestonwood golf courses argued that Cary’s noise rules were too vague.
The council intended only to clarify the rules, Bush said, but ended up changing the times maintenance crews are allowed to start on weekends without holding a public hearing.
“We are changing the rules in the middle of this game, and that’s what I’m not supportive of,” she said.
Other council members agreed with Deputy Cary Police Chief Tony Godwin, who said the rule changes, while different on paper, reflect how local courses have been operating for years.
“It’s been their practice for many, many years that they get started at 7 a.m.” on weekends, Godwin said.
Council members also argued that they’d received enough feedback from residents to be able to make an informed decision.
The council never held a public hearing, but residents shared their thoughts on the rules during the regular public comment period on Thursday and at a meeting on May 5.
Councilman Jack Smith said he thought the majority of golf course residents supported the rule changes.
“I think this (opposition) is artificial, and that’s one of the downsides of the Internet,” Smith said.
Councilman Don Frantz added that he doesn’t believe a Homeowners’ Association statement speaks for the entire community it represents.
On Thursday, three people spoke in favor of the rules while two spoke out against them.
One of the opponents, Bob Butler, has argued that dozens of his Prestonwood neighbors oppose the rules but don’t want to speak out publicly because they’re afraid of being ostracized by neighbors and country club members.
Butler said he fears Cary will soon “be seen as a town with an unhealthy noise environment.”
Prestonwood resident Dick Domann, meanwhile, said the rules would help maintenance crews improve golf courses, “adding value to the property I own.”
“Routine maintenance does not disrupt our lifestyle,” Domann said.
The council directed the town staff to evaluate the rules in a year based on resident feedback.
Cary’s new golf course noise rules are complicated and hard to explain. That’s part of the reason some town council members wanted to postpone a vote on them. Residents who have questions about the new rules are encouraged to call Deputy Cary Police Chief Tony Godwin at 919-469-4325.