A reader asks: How many tickets have been issued for noise violations downtown in 2023? // Credit: City of Asheville website

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: Asheville Downtown in the past three years has become unbearably LOUD. The city does not seem to be able to figure out how to control this huge increasing noise — from flag wavers singing into amplifiers to the pseudo-buskers blasting amps turned up, and some playing bongos and drums for hours. The police department has to control the noise of vehicles due to the danger and safety needed. So, my questions: How many tickets have been issued for noise violations downtown in 2023? Are these issued by people hired to help control the noise? If there is a “noise team,” how many of them work from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., when the noise downtown is extreme? How many tickets — real tickets — have been issued by the police department for the extremely loud mufflers and the stereos cranked up in vehicles that shake even the tallest of buildings?

My answer: Suddenly, living a mile from the airport and right between two major highways, with a house full of barking basset hounds, seems pretty darned blissful.

Real answer: Asheville City spokesperson Kim Miller answered via email on behalf of the city on this one. To cut to the chase, no citations have been issued.

The Asheville Police Department is not the main player in this arena anymore.

“The vast majority of monitoring noise ordinance compliance now falls to the Development Services Department’s noise compliance division,” Miller said. “While the Asheville Police Department still plays a role, the passing of the revised noise ordinance in the fall of 2021 means officers now respond to residential and commercial noise complaints after hours.”

In those cases, the officers respond and record information on the complaint so Development Services staff can follow up, Miller said.

“A responding officer does have the discretion to request the violator to comply,” Miller said. “If there is no compliance, then an officer could issue a citation.”

So far in 2023, the APD has responded to 583 calls for loud music or noise, which can also include loud neighbors, exhaust, construction noise, loud parties and other incidents. Of those, 54 were in the downtown area.

“No citations have been issued,” Miller said. “One noise violation ticket has been issued to a motor vehicle.”

The Development Services Department’s compliance team handles “the vast majority of complaints,” Miller said.

“There is no standard coverage outside the work week, which is 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, she added.

“But focused after-hours staff do visit targeted businesses to measure noise level,” Miller said. “Many of these are related to live music venues. When concerts are scheduled, the team will often take a pass through downtown and other areas to monitor noise levels.”

Miller also noted that the city’s webpage on this has more information, frequently asked questions and a link to file a complaint. YOU’RE WELCOME!

Duke Energy is on schedule to build a solar array at its Lake Julian power plant in southern Buncombe County, with an opening planned in the spring of 2026. It will be similar to Duke’s solar operation in Hot Springs up in Madison County, pictured here. // Photo provided by Duke Energy.

Question: Duke Energy indicated some time ago that they were going to put solar panels in the area that formerly was used for coal ash at the Lake Julian power plant. How is that project coming along? When will it be online? How much electricity is it expected to generate on average, and how many typical homes in Asheville would be electrified by this green energy?

My answer: If coal ash ever becomes a valuable commodity for future Earth, those folks will really thank us. We made a lot of coal ash.

Real answer: This work is ongoing at the Lake Julian power plant site.

“We’re repurposing as much of the former coal plant site as possible for North Carolina’s clean energy transition,” Duke Energy spokesperson Bill Norton said via email. “We are planning a 9.5-megawatt solar facility at the Asheville Plant, and that project is actively under development.”

Construction should start in 2025, and the project should be in service in the spring of 2026, he said. The solar plant will generate enough electricity annually to power 1,900 homes.

The new natural-gas powered plant at Lake Julian, which Duke calls the Asheville Combined Cycle Station, was built in the footprint of the site’s first excavated ash basin. The new plant is 75% more efficient than the coal plant it replaced, Norton said.

Duke burned a lot of coal at this site, as the original plant, built by Carolina Power & Light, opened in 1964 and operated until 2020. Duke had two large coal ash basins on site.

“Excavation of the second and final basin was completed in June 2022, ahead of state deadlines, and coal plant demolition was finished shortly afterward,” Norton said. “The land was then contoured for stormwater and drainage management and to accommodate solar.”

Norton noted that the new plant complements the upcoming solar operation, as it can provide power to customers on cloudy days and through the night.

Another Duke spokesperson, Randy Wheeless, told me that Duke already has a solar operation running in Madison County. 

“The Hot Springs Microgrid went online earlier this year and was designed to increase reliability,” Wheeless said via email, adding the facility consists of two megawatts of solar and a 4.4-megawatt battery, operating on 15 acres.

Hot Springs has a population of around 500.

“In the case of an outage, the microgrid can carry the town’s load for four to six hours — depending on weather, maybe longer,” Wheeless said. “That equals the length of time of what outages were historically in the area.”

Dukle is also working with Buncombe County government on a 5-megawatt solar power plant on the closed Buncombe County landfill in Woodfin, near Interstate 26 and the French Broad River. 

“It should be online late this year or early next year,” Wheeless said.

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.

9 replies on “Answer Man: Are Asheville noise violators actually charged? Duke Energy’s local solar farm on track?”

  1. So the short answer is basically nothing is being done about nlise violations and everyone knows it. Sort of like criminals know the police force is at half staff so no one bothers to call in crimes. So the city is proud to announce there are no crime or noise violation issues in Asheville.

  2. The second coal ash area was not evacuated by Duke as originally agreed upon. It was buried on the site. Please check this information.

  3. The city introduced the new ordinance with the following language on its website: “At their July 27 (2021) meeting, Asheville City Council voted to update the City’s Noise Ordinance with an aim to identify and prioritize noise concerns and develop clear and enforceable thresholds for noise generation.”

    Well they certainly accomplished their goals. Noise complaints are ignored because those charged with enforcement do not work at night. This means that there are no thresholds because there is no one on hand to officially make note of the violations. And there is no enforcement because there is no way to verify and deal with complaints in real time.

    I’ve got to hand it to the members of the Council. They found the perfect do-nothing bureaucratic solution to a serious quality of life problem.

  4. I think it would be easy to set up a “noise trap” for motor vehicles, akin to a speed trap. The artificially noisy vehicles are orders of magnitude louder than regular vehicles. There aren’t that many of them. Cite the few of them and problem is over. But now they know nothing will be done, so they just cruise around the neighborhoods showing off (or, sounding off).
    That is, setting up a noise trap would be easy for a city government that was genuinely interested in enforcing its noise laws. Too bad we don’t live in one.

  5. “…from flag wavers singing into amplifiers to the pseudo-buskers blasting amps turned up, and some playing bongos and drums for hours.”
    I’ve lived in Asheville for 23 years and there has always been all of the above all that time. How long as the complaintant lived here? Sad that what used to be part of what made Asheville special and drew people to visit has now become a “problem.”

    1. I’m also a longtime resident and have more specifically lived downtown for the past 12 years. The busking scene has changed a great deal in that time — and not for the better in terms of the noise issue. Traditional buskers (probably like we both recall) played unamplified music, drew a small crowd that would listen for a while, and then tip as they went on their way. People who wanted to listen would linger – those who did not were spared prolonged exposure to unwanted noise, and the volume was moderate.

      Today, the technology has changed, and many if not most of the buskers are highly amplified, will often play for 3 or 4 hours at a time, and often play to loud, prerecorded background tracks. Rather than drawing a crowd close in to listen, they broadcast their music over an expanse of a full block or more – including to a substantial “captive audience” of people in residences, offices, and businesses who would rather not be subjected to it.

  6. I submitted a letter concerning the definition of noise pollution and its impact (physical and mental health) related to the orange peel’s outdoor venue rabbit rabbit (the venue in a former parking lot on Coxe Ave) to the Mt. Express. This venue is allowed to exceed the noise level and allowed to play longer than other outside events. Not only did it take them over a month to publish but the responses to my letter from the city and the orange peel did not address the issues/facts I presented, only discussed how much money and pleasure the venue brought to the city and concert attendees.
    As an aside I had submitted multiple complaints (seriously i lost count) to the city noise complaint website re: this venue – I was listed as submitting one.

  7. I asked the question– I was told when the positions were hired for NOISE- that they would take care of noise complaints. I asked at that time that these people work into the evenings. They apparently do not leaving some work for the police….. BUT when they set up these “noise” positions, they specifically gave “vehicle noise” to the police department. I watched while very loud stereos in cars blasted for blocks- while unmuffled cars roared between buildings- and while the police cars would never be seen around Pack Square in the evenings. I’m sure they did not want to confront vehicle noise. I was told by the department that the officers do not want to have noise meters. I have seen way over 75 db- cars blast by the police cars around town- and nothing is done. Well, it’s sad to see that officers do not want to tackle this issue- as it gets louder and louder…downtown. I’m sure they see themselves as more important than stopping noise.. and they have better things to do. The problem “Asheville is far too loud to live downtown- when it was OK 3 years ago- it can be torture for residents now. I was a policeman early in my career.. I saw my role as doing everything I could to help society– and apparently that is not what this department follows… I appreciate the difficulties they face- and if the motorcycles can be loud as hell– why can’t everyone–? well- in Asheville – everyone can be loud as hell and never worry about a ticket..

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