A Carmel judge has ruled the city’s noise ordinance unconstitutional and dismissed two citations related to events held at Lucas Estate.
The ruling comes as the City of Carmel and Lucas Estate are embroiled in a legal battle about whether the Lucas family is violating another ordinance by hosting large parties and fundraisers at its mansion on W. 116th Street. A judge has ordered mediation in that case, with a trial date set for 2021.
On Aug. 29 Carmel City Court Judge Brian Poindexter ruled in favor of two people serving as event managers at Lucas Estate events who received noise ordinance citations after neighbors complained about noise from a St. Vincent Hospital fundraiser held Aug. 10, 2018, and a wedding for friends of the Lucas family held Sept. 29, 2018.
The judge stated that Carmel’s ordinance is so vague that it would consider telephone rings, wind chimes and alarm clocks to be violations if they can be heard 50 feet away from their source, which is what they are designed to do.
“Carmel’s interpretation that it violates the ordinance merely to produce sound that is audible 50 feet away – no matter how loud and for how long – makes the ordinance sweep so broadly, with no discernable limits, that the ordinance would be unconstitutionally vague,” Poindexter stated.
The City of Carmel argued that it had authority to issue the citations because the city’s Board of Public Works did not approve the events beforehand, but Poindexter ruled that the ordinance doesn’t require that and – if it did – it would be unconstitutional.
“If Carmel is right that a person violates the ordinance merely by producing a sound that is audible 50 feet from its source, and if Carmel is also right that the only celebrations and artistic performances exempt from the ordinance are those that the City approves in advance, it is hard to imagine a clearer violation of the First Amendment; political religious, and artistic speech will all be subject to Carmel’s regulation through unfettered discretion,” Poindexter stated.
The judge ruled that event managers cannot be cited for noises they didn’t make, even if a noise violation occurred during an even for which they are responsible.
He also determined that Carmel Police Dept. officers use subjective measures when giving the citations.
“Both officers testified that they read the ordinance and determined on their own what they thought it meant,” Poindexter stated. “Neither was able to say whether his interpretation matched that of fellow Carmel officers.”
Current has reached out to City of Carmel officials for comment.
Michael Wukmer, an attorney for the Lucas family, said his clients declined to comment except that “they still hope to resolve all of their differences with the City in an amicable fashion.”