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Court told of adjacent hotel’s complaints

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 17, 2009) – Services held by the Worship Centre Church at Sogi greatly exceed legal noise limits. They stop a neighbour from enjoying their property.

The marquee or tent used by the church for their services is illegal.

Those were key arguments put before the Supreme Court yesterday by Hotel Millenia through their lawyer in seeking an interim injunction against the church.

Maiava Visekota Peteru, counsel for the hotel, wants the Respondents, Worship Centre and Reverend Viliamu Mafo’e, to refrain from the activities in the interim injunction application.

Hotel Millenia, the Applicant, was established in 2000, said Ms Peteru.

It moved next door to her client in 2005, she said.

From then to May of this year, at least four complaints have been made to the Planning and Urban Management Agency (PUMA) and the Respondents about the noise level coming out of the church’s marquee, she said.

In December 2008, PUMA, using a sound level reading machine, tested the sound level from Worship Centre which gave a recording of 82.9 decibels. The level allowed is 52 – 57 decibels.

"And that’s what we’re dealing with here, excessive noise," argued Ms Peteru.

A more recent test, done on Sunday 12 July, gave a result of 73 decibels – still well in excess of the allowable limit, she said. But a sound technician for the church, Fanuafou Filipo said he did not believe such data because he was not there when they were carried out.

In response to a complaint, he had sat at the seawall in front of Hotel Millenia and heard only the music coming from a bar nearby – Pa’u Sefo’s establishment, Mr Filipo said. Ms Peteru pointed out the tent where church services are held was put up without the required [permit].

Further, it is unsuitable for the activity being held there because it has no walls nor is it sound proof.

Worship Centre has held a conference the past two weeks with church services a daily source of excessive noise in the day and part of the night, Ms Peteru said.

Hotel manager, Tuala Oli Ah Him, said the "noise pollution" has not been cured by a brick wall they built at the boundary. Nor has church efforts to reduce their sounds by placing speakers at different locations, worked, Tuala said.

Jeffrey Leung Wai, who carried out sound tests for PUMA, said their measuring machine is "quite accurate."

Testifying for the Respondents, Mr Filipo said his calculations based on the amount of electricity used showed their machines are incapable of producing sounds no louder than 33 decibels.

Ms Peteru said under PUMA classifications 33 decibels had the loudness of whispering.

Counsel for the Respondents, George Latu, pointed to a previous court ruling which mentioned that a nuisance level of noise had to be "substantial and unreasonable."

Singing at Worship Centre produced the 73 decibel reading by PUMA and lasted just one and a half hours a week, Mr Latu said.

That’s on a Sunday morning, he said.

"It’s a Sunday and everyone can expect that kind of noise on a Sunday."

That’s because everyone in Samoa is at church then and singing, he said.

Only a person "who doesn’t like church singing" would be annoyed by such an activity.

Ms Peteru said they have no desire to stop the church from holding services, only for them to turn the volume down.

Presiding Judge Vui Clarence Nelson adjourned the matter to 4pm today to deliver a ruling on the interim injunction application.


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