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Residents complain about noise from nearby church

Staff Photo: Tyler Estep Neighbors living near the property of the International House of Prayer, located on Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville, say the non-denominational church plays loud music late at night, sometimes with bass so strong it shakes their houses. The church is open 24 hours a day.

Staff Photo: Tyler Estep Neighbors living near the property of the International House of Prayer, located on Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville, say the non-denominational church plays loud music late at night, sometimes with bass so strong it shakes their houses. The church is open 24 hours a day.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Ask a few folks living near Lawrenceville's International House of Prayer, and that whole "love thy neighbor" thing ain't exactly being lived by.

Rachael LaLiberty and Patty Bakmac's homes back up to the non-denominational church's tin-roofed building on Collins Hill Road. When they moved into the Wellington Estates subdivision they expected a good neighbor, a positive influence in the community.

What they got, they say, is the church's 24-hour worship services, complete with loud music and an ungodly amount of bass.

"The bass shakes our house inside," LaLiberty said. "Things fall over."

Said Bakmac: "It literally gives me headaches."

The International House of Prayer opened its doors in Lawrenceville in 2004. Since February 2006, the church has had its "prayer room" open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "The prayer meeting that started on Feb. 12, 2006, continues to this day, without ceasing," the church's website says.

The website contains a schedule for the prayer room: With events titled devotional worship, intercession, end times service and healing service, it runs unabated in hour-long blocks from midnight to 11 p.m.

Worship, Bakmac said, is not a problem. It's the loud music that comes with, often in the wee hours of the morning.

"We're happy that they worship, we worship too," the 58-year-old said. "They certainly have the right to worship. But they don't have the right to impose their worship on other people."

LaLiberty said she, Bakmac and another neighbor in the cul-de-sac that backs up to the church grounds -- often times with a buffer of less than 50 feet -- began by complaining directly to church personnel. Church leaders originally said they were working on better "sound proofing" the building, but those assurances proved fruitless, LaLiberty said.

"I went as far as going in there and inviting two of the church leaders into our house to listen one night," LaLiberty said. "They came over and they both agreed that the music was crazy loud ... But one said, 'But if we turn the music down it doesn't sound good inside (the church).'"

Multiple attempts to reach church officials were unsuccessful. Voicemail messages left at the church and with specific leaders were not returned.

LaLiberty and Bakmac said they now routinely call the police to report the loud music. Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said only one formal noise violation has been filed against the church in the last two years. That came last December, he said.

Officers come to the area when they're called, Bakmac said, but often can't do anything because the deep bass of the music has stopped for the time being. LaLiberty has taken to sleeping with ear plugs in.

Both women agreed that church leaders are "perfectly nice" when spoken to about the issue. But that hasn't delivered results, they said.

"They just really have no regard for their neighbors," Bakmac said. "It's a shame."

Gwinnett County ordinances make it unlawful to make "any loud ... noise which unreasonably annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others in the county, and which is audible to a person of normal hearing ability more than 50 feet from the point of origin."

The backyards of LaLiberty and Bakmac likely begin closer than 50 feet to the church, but their actual homes are outside of those parameters.

Both women expressed some degree of reluctance to complain because, after all, the church is a place of worship. That said, they want it to be held to the same standard as anyone else.

"If we did that, if we had a loud party, we would get fined," Bakmac said.

"They don't care," LaLiberty added. "That's the end of it I think."

Comments

RosieW 1 year, 7 months ago

This is a very unfortunate situation. One of the residents says she is wearing ear plugs to sleep. This could lead to a dangerous situation, compounding the problem. She could have an intruder and not be aware. Scary thought for me.

The unanswered question is why the church leadership hasn't gone forward with the sound proofing. An animal hospital close to me has, with very good results. My city's Community Center has triple paned windows. I "observed" the landscaper in the adjacent cemetery operating his gas powered weed eater through those windows, with only the smallest sound coming through. May I be so bold as to suggest the church should do this also?

Rosie, Sugar Hill

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Elbonian 1 year, 7 months ago

Perhaps some civic-minded attorney could step forward and file a pro bono suit on behalf of the annoyed neighbors. That might prompt the folks at IHOP to follow-through with their noiseproofing promise.

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notblind 1 year, 7 months ago

There is nothing more indefensible than denying your neighbors the enjoyment of their homes. IMO, 9pm is the cutoff time for excessive noise escaping an adjoining property. If you repeatedly disturb the peace of your neighbors after 9PM I feel you should be heavily fined. This whole situation sounds like a 24 hour party hidden under the guise of religion.

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westd 1 year, 7 months ago

Wow! What a horrible problem for the home owners. If a homeowner, a church, or any other source of noice, breaks a noise ordinance it should be enforced! The article says the police have been called numerous times so why hasn't anything been done to help these residents that should be able to enjoy peace in their homes? The church should be held accountable to abide by the noice ordiance like anyone else. I would take the church to court if the police refuse to help you. You deserve to have peace and quiet in your home! The Bible says, "make a joyful noice unto the Lord.", but I don't think the message meant to drive people to wearing earplugs.

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teelee 1 year, 7 months ago

Should have known this was in the area of Briscoe Field. Don't they know that the Lawrenceville elite will not tolerate any type of noise in their Mayberry?

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westd 1 year, 7 months ago

Lawrenceville elite will not help these poor residents. If this church was near county officials' homes, (if you can find any that are not in jail) this problem would have been already solved.j

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

Not true Teelee ...

They let you run free, don't they? (Smiles)

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MattDamon 1 year, 7 months ago

Being the owner of one of the homes behind this so called "Church", i am truly annoyed that none of our efforts have been able to quiet them down. When we invited the leaders into my home they stated that turning it down would sound bad and that they would have to spend a lot of money to soundproof the building, I said what are you waiting for. I encourage anyone reading this to check this out, http://solasisters.blogspot.com/2011/06/former-ihop-member-explains-why-ihop.html, it has some insight on the activities of this church. I hope this article get to there attention so maybe they can start to respect the community around them.

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TAK 1 year, 7 months ago

A snippy immature comment you make teelee. These people have a legitimate complaint and a disruption of their lives and all you can do is scoff?

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timkenyon 1 year, 7 months ago

The church could go all acoustic music after 10 pm until 10 am. That would get rid of the bass problem. That is one simple start until they get the soundproofing they need.

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Coolray 1 year, 7 months ago

Why would a church continue to do something they did'nt have to do which so obviously offends the community where they reside?

Sound more like somebody needs to read the bible and understand the gospel or be shut down as imposters.

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A_Gwinnett_Atheist 1 year, 7 months ago

If reasonable zoning laws were enforced, the church would never have been allowed to build here. Obviously, law enforcement are not doing their job. With multiple complaints and a sound ordinance that prohibits excessive noise level 24/7. their are simple ways to monitor the levels and enforce the law. Maybe residents should walk into their back yards to make 911 calls with phones on speaker-phone so the sound is recorded on the 911 call and a record of the noise level is then available for prosecution. The church leaders seem to have the attitude that, by labeling themselves "church" they do not need to be concerned with laws. After reading the link supplied by MattDamon, I believe it is time for the IRS to audit the church. Definitely reasons to suspect misuse of funds for any tax exempt organization.

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DB 1 year, 7 months ago

They should feel blessed that they do not live next door to us.

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jamesgriffin 1 year, 7 months ago

Time to get OSHA involved. They have regulations about noise levels in the workplace - that includes the church. Never mind the "insulate the building" solution - what about the health of the people inside? OSHA rules specify, for the worker, 8 hours at 90dB is the limit, or just 4 hours at 95dB. If the report of them rattling the windows is accurate, that's 105dB and the OSHA limit for exposure to that is 1 hour before it will eventually lead to hearing loss. Does the church leadership really want to damage the hearing of its staff and members? Let's all hope not. And remember: Soundproofing the outside of the building so sound won't be noticed next door does NOT help prevent hearing loss for those INSIDE the church. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/

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westd 1 year, 7 months ago

The church offers earplugs inside the church for a $.25 donation So, they KNOW the music is too loud

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be0wulf 1 year, 7 months ago

As a member of the church that formerly occupied the building, Crossroads, I can say that for the most part we had a good relationship with the neighbors. Sunday services were the primary use for us, and it was pretty loud (but not above the 95 db limit Mr. Griffin refers to). You can definitely hear it in the surrounding neighborhoods, and we were cognizant of that, especially for evening activities (youth group, etc.) Occasionally we'd get a complaint and we'd make sure to adjust to it. But even then we rarely had activities run past 10 pm, much different from the 24/7 operation IHOP runs. They seemed nice from my interaction with them as we transitioned the building to them.

Yes it has a metal roof...interesting they seem to be putting the blame on that. It's been that way since we built it, and is quite obvious (you can see it inside!), as it also was when the building was purchased. Back in the mid-90s, incidentally before most of the houses in the area. Not that it gives IHOP justification for 24-hour noise issues, but if one moves that close to a church you'd have to expect to hear it occasionally. I suppose that is the key to all of this...occasionally. 24-hour prayer services are great and commendable...but is music always necessary for prayer? Or just use a small radio during that time, rather than the full sound system.

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collins 1 year, 7 months ago

As one of the homeowners of that neighborhood, I can also attest that the problem with the IHOP is ongoing and the leadership has done nothing to address it. They also came to our house once and were very friendly, assuring us that they were working on it, but they never did anything. I am surprised though by the remark of Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith. He said only one formal noise violation has been filed against the church in the last two year (last December). I personally went to the Gwinnett County Police in June 2011 to file an noise violation complaint and was told, that they could not do anything about it because there was no law against making noise during the day. I really hope this article will help to find a solution to this unbearable situation.

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car253 5 months, 1 week ago

Any updates to this story? No one should be above the law.

Fighting for peace and quiet in Los Angeles. I am a noise victim from Divine Saviour Catholic Church, 90065.

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