CANNON BEACH - Cannon Beach City Councilors heard an example of the pre-recorded chimes that could be ringing out from a new steeple at Community Presbyterian Church beginning in November.
A proposal to play the chimes twice a day for six days a week and four to five times on Sunday - including hymns - has become an issue that brought several opponents to the council's work session Tuesday night.
The church recently received approval from the city planning commission for a conditional use to build a bell tower with a Celtic cross, along with a 10-foot by 15-foot backlit cross on the west exterior wall of the church, at the corner of Hemlock and Washington streets.
The bell tower would contain speakers that would play digital recordings of chimes and hymns at predetermined times of day. Playing of pre-recorded chimes falls under the city's noise control ordinance, which the City Council considered Tuesday night.
However, because the council met in a work session and not an official meeting, it could not make a decision on the proposed bell system, nor on an amendment proposed to modify the city code governing noise.
Rev. David Robinson, the church's pastor, told the council that the church hoped to play the chimes at noon and 6 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday. He played a recording of the classic Westminster chimes that would be "one of the possibilities" for marking the time of day.
On Sunday, the chimes would still play at noon and 6 p.m., but Robinson also wants to play them before church services at 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. and, before the church's Taize service on the first and third Sundays, which starts at 7 p.m.
The city's noise control code allows sounds "made by or in simulation of bells and chimes" to denote the time of day and don't exceed three minutes. The chimes, not exceeding 60 decibels, can be played between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Robinson asked the council to amend the city code to allow the chimes to announce times of worship services or celebrate special occasions, such as weddings or holidays.
Such special occasions, he said would be after weddings, which the church conducts 10 to 12 times a year, or during holidays, such as Christmas, Easter and other "festival" days.
Mayor Mike Morgan told Robinson he would have to submit a formal application to the city requesting the amendment.
In addition to the Westminster chimes, Robinson played other examples of the pre-recorded chimes as well as a hymn. He said hymns might be played on Sundays. The church, which is considering digital recordings provided by several companies, would play a variety of bell tones and hymns.
He estimated that the bells would be heard over a three-block area.
Continuing a traditionRobinson said the church wanted to continue a tradition of playing pre-recorded church bells that began in 1973, when it installed a Carillon bell system, and continued until 2000 when the system wore out.
"The style reflects the traditional tolling of bells across the land and across Europe," Robinson said. "We want to restore what we've lost due to the deterioration of the system."
He said that during the 17 years he has served as the church's pastor, he has heard only one complaint about the bells, "but I've heard hundreds of compliments from community members." But Robinson acknowledged that some residents might not want to hear the bells and added, "I don't want to live in disharmony with people."
He said he hoped to begin playing the bells in the new bell tower beginning the first week of November, which marks the church's 80th anniversary.
Councilor Wendy Higgins called the sounds "beautiful" and said they reminded her of her childhood in England.
But those living near the church said the bells would be intrusive.
"I was happy when the amplified, scratchy recordings of the bells stopped," said Betsy Ayres, who owns property across from the church. "I like the quiet and peace."
Ayres said she had "no problem" with the bells ringing on Sunday as they did in the past, but "I don't particularly want someone else's religious beliefs thrust on me."
"In the 21st century, we are besieged with noise, lights and traffic. People come to the beach where it is quiet and they can listen to the waves. I certainly would not like to see even more noise added on."
Rex Amos said allowing the church to amplify recordings of bells opened the way for local businesses to amplify sounds of their own, which the city code prohibits.
Gary Durheim, who lives across Washington Street from the church, also objected. "This is a promotion of God's business, and I don't want to hear a promotion of God's business," he said.
Questioning how the bells' sound level would be measured, TR Factor said the bells "may be overwhelming for people across the street and several blocks down."
But Councilor Sam Steidel, who lives just north of the church across Hemlock Street, said he would make sure the city's code enforcement officer measured the sound at the property line.
"I have a direct line to where the bells are going to be," he said. "I can see them from my bedroom window."
Others, however, told the council that they looked forward to hearing the bells again. Marlene Laws said she remembered hearing the previous bells and felt that they were appropriate in the Cannon Beach "village."
Restaurant owner Tom Morris agreed.
"I remember the bells, I miss them and I hope they come back," Morris said.