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Neighbor wages noise war on Church at Center

Issue began with outdoor services

A Memorial Day observance Church at the Center in Salem (Submitted photo)

PERRY TWP. — Police Chief Mike Emigh said Monday he’s considering filing criminal charges against a homeowner on South Lincoln Avenue who’s waging a noise war against the Church at the Center.

The noise issue came up during the Perry Township Board of Trustees meeting, with Trustee Vice Chairman Jim Armeni complaining about the neighbor playing loud music while the church is holding services on Sunday mornings.

At first, Armeni said the neighbor was shooting his gun, then he started running his boat motor and now he plays music and cranks it up — all while the church is holding it’s outdoor drive-up service at 1785 S. Lincoln Ave.

“This is all intentional,” he said.

Emigh, who was contacted after the meeting, said the resident was told about the complaint about his shooting, which he’s legally permitted to do on his property, when it happened and it hasn’t happened since, and he’s been told about his loud music, too.

The resident has complained about the noise from the outdoor church service, which has been happening in the parking lot across the street from his property since COVID-19 hit in the spring.

“Every time they have church, he’s retaliating,” Emigh said.

He plans to talk to both sides, but said it’s his understanding the church members have tried to work with the resident on the issue. According to township zoning officer Allan Wolfgang, church members have tried to turn down their sound and have talked about installing equipment to cut or limit the noise from the service.

Emigh said the charges that could be filed against the resident include disorderly conduct persisting or menacing.

“If this doesn’t stop, we’ll go that route,” he said.

The resident called police at 9:51 a.m. Sunday to report a man from the Church at the Center was walking onto his property and into his driveway. The man walked away when he asked him to leave.

The resident told police the noise from the church has been an ongoing problem. An officer spoke with members of the church who were told to stay away from his residence. The report said the resident has retaliated by playing loud music during the outside church service and was kindly asked to turn down the music or turn it off. He agreed to turn if off on Sunday.

An officer spoke with the church members about trying to rectify the situation for both sides and they said they had already turned the speakers down and tried to come to an agreement with the resident. State Rep. Tim Ginter, R-Salem, serves as senior pastor at the church, where Armeni said he has attended.

A recent post on the church’s social media page featured a video of all attendees in their vehicles in the parking lot being asked to beep their horns, which they did a few times.

An officer attends the church service every Sunday as hired security and the department also assists with traffic control when the service is over.

Wolfgang told trustees using an existing law to address the issue would be easier than writing something new. Besides disorderly conduct, he also said Ohio Revised Code for disturbing a lawful meeting could be considered.

“I think playing ‘Highway to Hell’ as loud as you can during a church service pertains to this,” he said.

When asked by Trustee Don Rudibaugh if any other neighbors had complained, he didn’t know. Armeni said he would check with the Columbiana County prosecutor’s office on their options. He said he doesn’t speak for the church members, but said “they just want to get along and do their business.”

Emigh confirmed that there was no issue until the outdoor services began.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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