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Ogle County Board approves noise ordinance following Sledgehammer's arrests, complaints

Sledgehammers, north of Oregon, has had live bands this summer.
Sledgehammers, north of Oregon, has had live bands this summer.

OREGON – A rash of noise complaints about a new bar close to a residential area near Oregon has prompted the Ogle County Board to approve a noise ordinance for unincorporated areas of the county.

The board approved the new ordinance 23-1 during its Tuesday meeting in response to noise complaints from residents who live near Sledgehammer’s, a bar located at 1450 N. state Route 2.

The county's existing noise ordinance only applied to barking dogs.

“I’ve received several emails from residents in the area,” board member Susie Corbitt said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Neighbors say they can’t sit outside and they’ve complained of profanity. Kids have to stay inside. This ordinance needs to be done regardless of the affected area in the county.”

Seven disorderly conduct arrests have been made in recent weeks stemming from noise complaints with local residents willing to press charges. Sledgehammer’s owner Jason Stombaugh and managers Melissa Wall and Justin Coltrain were arrested by Ogle County Deputies.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle has said that there have been noise complaints every weekend over the summer.

The new noise ordinance defines a public nuisance as “any excessively loud musical performances or any type or sound amplification system which can be heard at a distance greater than 500 feet from any property line of the source property.”

The ordinance takes effect from 8 p.m. each night until 8 a.m. each morning, with the exception of 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Ogle County Fair and the Byron Dragway are exempt from the new noise ordinance.

The ordinance will be enforced by the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office, the health department and the county's zoning and planning department. The fine upon conviction for a first offense is $500 and could reach $1,000 for later offenses.

The public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting included several emails read in support of Sledgehammer’s and its live music.

An email from Dawn Jansen read that there has been a “personal vengeance agenda” by the county against Sledgehammer’s and that the business has been unfairly targeted.

Another email from Scott Ward said Sledgehammer’s is a "destination" for bikers from up to 2-3 hours away and has unjustly received a bad reputation due to the complaints and arrests.

Stombaugh and Wall also spoke during the public comment portion. Stombaugh said he was in favor of an ordinance and that structure will give him clarity going forward. But the 500 feet rule didn’t sit right with him.

He said the noise carries over the river and flat areas and he’d prefer it be measured by decibels. VanVickle has said that wouldn’t be possible due to equipment being needed to measure decibels.

“We also need it to say police can’t arrest us for disorderly conduct due to noise,” Stombaugh said. “There’s been seven arrests for that in front of customers for an ordinance that hasn’t existed. It’s all been before 8 p.m. on weekends. It’s causing a bad image. Please address this immediately.”

Wall’s comments included reading minutes from the meeting where Sledgehammer’s special use permit was approved where Stombaugh also said there’d be live music.

“We’ve tried to change things to work with the community,” Wall said. “We want more patrons. We want this dealt with immediately. It’s not about us being disorderly.”

Ogle County Planning and Zoning Administrator Harry Adams said the special use permit does not give the bar license to exceed state noise laws or the new ordinance passed by the county on Tuesday.

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