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A group of downtown-area residents approach Woodburn City Council with complaints of neighborhood disruption

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Residents in a downtown Woodburn neighborhood expressed multiple concerns, from noise to livability.Annoying scenario: you are trying to sleep late at night, but you can't sleep because wall-penetrating music coming from a neighbor's home is so loud you can make out the lyrics clearly while lying in your shuttered bedroom.

The situation is compounded when it happens multiple times and the neighbor seems indifferent.

A group of downtown-area Woodburn residents, who live barely a minute's walk from city hall and the city library, related such a scenario to the Woodburn City Council on Monday, Jan. 14.

"I simply cannot live this way anymore. My hands won't stop shaking. My heart won't stop racing. I am close to tears," Ruth Wells told the council.

Several 3rd Street residents, including Wells, her husband Dan, and neighbor Katie Nusbaum, were among a handful of households that reached out to the council via written and/or oral testimony, pleading for the panel to, perhaps, revisit noise ordinances or equip local law enforcement with more-effective tools to squelch this sort of disruption.

"What was the reaction of these individuals when you asked them to stop their (disruptive) behavior?" Councilor Robert Carney posed to the group.

Wells said she approached the house during one 3 a.m. sleep-depriving racket, unsuccessfully, resulting in a verbal spat. She said she was advised by police to not approach the house again.

Councilors were empathetic, but also guarded. Much of the testimony claimed other exasperations such as continual revving of engines, drug dealing, garbage, intimidation and public urination and defecation – all aimed at the same residence. The term "livability" surfaced.

Carney said while noise issues and ordinances are within the purview of the city, livability "issues" can be a slippery slope since they are nuanced and often arbitrary.

But the council, Mayor Eric Swenson and city staff were convinced enough by the testimony that wheels began to turn.

"What's being described to us by two families here (in attendance) is a cacophony of noise that is occurring out of one particular location," Carney said. "So what I'd like to do is get some sort of indication of how frequently this particular location has been complained about."

Woodburn Police Chief James Ferraris said he didn't have that data at hand, but he could look into it.

"What I can tell you is that there have not been recent complaints about the place from residents in the neighborhood, and when there are complaints, we deal with them the best we can based on the priority of the day," Ferraris said.

Ferraris said the severity of given situation and the number of officers available at a given time are among the factors that influence call priority: public safety issues claim a higher priority than livability ones.

At the council's direction, City Administrator Scott Derickson will meet with Ferraris and other local police to examine possible approaches, including a revisit to the city's noise ordinance, which was last updated in 2005.

Derickson will also research other communities that have effectively dealt with similar issues. He estimated that a report back to the council would come in 4 to 6 weeks.

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