Durham church noise complaint tossed

March 12, 2013 3:18:48 PM PDT
A judge dismissed a noise complaint against Durham's NewHope Church Tuesday after a key witness didn't show up for a hearing.

Durham police cited the church under the city's noise ordinance in December for sound considered "unreasonable and disturbing." Neighbors have complained that services at the church on Fayetteville Road are akin to rock concerts - with the sound of the music invading their homes.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors said they had not been able to serve a subpoena on a pregnant witness in the case and asked for a continuance. Church attorney Bill Thomas countered that the case had already been delayed once and asked the judge to dismiss the alleged violation with prejudice.

The judge agreed, tossing the charge against Pastor Benji Kelly and his church. The Durham County District Attorney's Office said it will appeal. The case now goes to Superior Court.

Supporters of the church packed the courtroom Tuesday.

The decision does not settle the ongoing civil lawsuit filed against the church by a group of neighbors. Last month, Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins declined to approve a temporary restraining order that would have forced the church to turn down the volume while the lawsuit filed by nine families living in The Hills at Southpoint subdivision works its way through the courts.

The church claims it's tried to work with its neighbors by soundproofing walls, lowering sound levels, and changing worship times.

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