Lights out for taps in Glen Rock
Glen Rock residents may not be serenaded nightly by their taps-playing neighbor any longer, according to borough officials.
Councilman Joshua Corney, who plays taps from speakers at his home every night at 8 p.m., said Friday that the borough voted during its Wednesday meeting to restrict his playing.
The council unanimously voted to limit the amplified playing of taps to Sunday nights and approved "Flag Holidays" — July 4, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor Day, Flag Day and Patriots Day — according to a noise ordinance violation notice Corney received, which he posted on his Facebook page.
Corney, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, has been playing taps through speakers outside his Glen Avenue home for the past two years.
Taps is a bugle call typically heard at military funerals and at dusk on military installations. Corney, who is a councilman in the borough, said he plays a recording of the call over a loudspeaker to honor those in the service, past, present and future.
He has said he thought if he made it home, safe and sound, from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, he would play taps daily.
Decision: Corney said his biggest concern with the decision is that he currently has his speakers set up to play taps automatically at about 8 p.m. every night, and he does not know how to change it.
He said if he can't play it on the designated days, he could be sending a message to potential intruders.
“You’re kind of sending a signal out there — 'Hey, I’m not home, because I’m not playing it,'” he said.
He said if the borough chooses to enforce the ordinance, he would either have to stop playing taps or have to play at random times.
Corney said he would have tried to make a compromise had he been at the meeting.
“I would’ve maybe said, 'Can we make it more random, rather than make it any specific day,'” he said.
Corney said he didn't know if he would be OK with the decision if he could get taps to play automatically during the designated times. He said he would have to think about it.
Reached Friday, council president Doug Young declined to be interviewed over the phone but agreed to have questions emailed to him.
"(Corney) is not prohibited from playing taps. The motion from council found the current amplified playing of taps in violation of the nuisance ordinance. After extensive discussion, council decided that if it were played less frequently it would not be in violation," he wrote.
Young wrote that Corney playing it on Sundays and "Flag Holidays" would be allowed under the ordinance.
Absent: Corney, who is recovering from reconstructive surgery on his knee, was not able to make the meeting and said he was not aware the issue would be on the agenda for that night.
He said that during a previous meeting, council members were discussing moving a future meeting in June, and he said he told council members he wouldn't be able to attend the next two meetings because of his surgery.
“Apparently no one knew on the council that I was gone," he said.
"None of the borough officials in attendance had any knowledge that Mr. Corney was not going to attend," Young wrote. "I publicly stated at the meeting that I wished he was there."
Corney also said he typically receives an agenda for the night beforehand, but on Wednesday he did not get one.
Young said the agenda is often emailed to council members beforehand, but that is not always the case. He said the issue was on the agenda, and that action was taken because a resident had complained during the meeting.
Corney said he wasn't informed of the decision until he received a letter about the ordinance Friday, which informed him of the new conditions.
The ordinance, according to the letter, states that a nuisance is any noise or other disturbance that occurs continuously or intermittently for an extended period of time that annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities. That ordinance includes "loud playing" of devices that can be heard outside the boundaries of someone's property.
However, Corney said the council approved the playing of church bells from a church in a similar way to his taps playing, but that did not violate the ordinance.
“I am willing to compromise, I am willing to work it out, but I can only do it within reason," Corney said. "And I'm not going to do it at the sacrifice of my constitutional rights.”
Corney said he is figuring out what to do next, and that he might discontinue the musical ritual. He said he could potentially make a proposal in response to the letter he received, or he could bring in a petition signed by Glen Rock citizens.
By Sunday, there was an online petition asking council members to allow Corney to play taps "nightly at the designated time of 7:57 p.m. at the current amplified level and to protect its playing from violation of any Glen Rock ordinance as an accepted patriotic town tradition."
Supporters also were organizing door-to-door petitions.
Complaints: While the issue was removed from the agenda during April's meeting, councilwoman Victoria Ribeiro sent The York Dispatch a copy of the speech she was going to read during that meeting.
Ribeiro wrote that she was speaking for those who are opposed to Corney's routine, noting residents are reluctant to come forward for fear of retaliation.
"I'm speaking for folks that simply want to regain the quiet enjoyment of their homes," she wrote.
There are quite a few residents opposed to the music being played, according to Ribeiro.
One complaint from October 2015 was from a resident who said Corney's music violated the borough's noise ordinance, she noted.
Ribeiro wrote that the council did not agree with that resident's request that the practice be stopped or the volume of the recording decreased because her reaction to the song made her sensitivities seem "not normal."
The council did ask Corney to turn the music down, but he only moved the speaker, according to Ribeiro.
She said more people have come forward, and she believes the music does violate the ordinance. That, she wrote, is a position different from the one she took upon hearing the original complaint in October 2015.
She said most of the people complaining live close to Corney's property. One, she said, has Parkinson's disease and dementia, and he and his wife believe the music playing is "aggravating his conditions."
Ribeiro said the residents wish to have a good relationship with the Corneys, and they are not trying to attack him.
Corney's music, while not "deafening," is pretty loud, she said. Corney himself admitted to that Wednesday, and at least one of his supporters on Facebook reports hearing the recording from beyond the borough's borders.
She also said because of how much it is played, it is weakening the message of the music.
Attempts to reach Ribeiro for comment Friday afternoon were not successful.
The issue was not on the agenda during the council's meeting in May.
Glen Rock's next meeting is 7 p.m. July 19. Corney said he will not be able to attend because of his surgery.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.