Chapel Hill News

Golf club seeks exception to noise rules

An exception to local noise rules would give the Chapel Hill Country Club’s groundskeepers more time to groom the course before golfers hit the links each morning, club officials say.

Club general manager Don Hunter said he will ask the Town Council at its 7 p.m. Monday meeting to let groundskeepers start by 7:30 a.m. each day in order to finish the work before 60 players, on average, tee off by 9 a.m.

His petition makes several arguments, among them that the club on Lancaster Drive wants to bring in more competition, college and championship events. For that to succeed, Hunter said, it has to be on the same schedule as other golf clubs.

“The club is happy to work with any homeowners and with the city,” he said. “We just don’t want to lose the ability to create access any time we can.”

The town currently limits the use of mowers, leaf blowers and other motorized landscaping equipment in residential areas to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, within 100 feet of residential property.

Landscaping equipment cannot exceed 65 decibels when measured from 50 feet away, the rules state. First-time violators can get a warning, but additional violations can result in civil penalties, fines or even jail time.

Groundskeepers at UNC’s Finley Golf Course, which does not have any neighbors nearby, start between 5:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., depending on the season, a staff member said.

Only one person has complained about noise at the Chapel Hill Country Club, said Lt. Josh Mecimore, a Chapel Hill Police Department spokesman.

Homeowner David Bruckenstein said he talked with Police Chief Chris Blue about the noise and was told to call 911 if there’s a problem. He called 911 several times, Bruckenstein said, but the ground crews disappeared by the time police arrived.

Police have not cited anyone at the club for noise violations, Mecimore said.

Bruckenstein is not a club member but has lived roughly 90 yards from the fourth fairway for 16 years. There have been issues with the club before – damaged flower bulbs, leaves blown into their yard and sprinklers that flooded it – but those were mostly resolved, he said.

A few months ago, he learned the town’s rules could help him with the noise, he said.

“I went for a walk and wondered how can these poor folks be asleep with the mowers, blowers and string trimmers going,” he said. “I came home and Googled” the rules.

Hunter has offered to talk about using quieter equipment, but the level of noise isn’t the issue, Bruckenstein said. He thinks the club should follow the same rules as everyone else, he said, and suggested having groundskeepers groom the first three holes the night before to get a head start.

Hunter said that’s not realistic because maintaining the course when golfers are on it negatively affects their play and what groundskeepers can do.

The club is trying instead to work at least 50 feet from property lines, buy modern mowers and equipment that runs under the 65-decibel threshold and hire a sound expert to find other solutions, he said.

In any case, Hunter said, neighbors knew what they were buying into when they purchased a home at the course, which moved to its current location in the 1970s. More than half of the club’s neighbors belong to the club, he said.