NASHVILLE -- A jury that was instructed to listen to a church's electronic carillon to determine if it is too loud has decided the bells will toll -- at 55 percent of their volume.
The jury visited Bellshire United Methodist Church Tuesday to hear the $3,000 Schulmerlich carillon for themselves before settling the lawsuit that said the chimes were too loud.
Jurors listened to the carillon at the church and in a neighbor's home, first at 40 percent of its volume capacity and then at 70 percent.
The panel deliberated nearly 90 minutes before deciding that the church may play its carillon at 55 percent of its maximum volume, three times a day and five times on Sunday.
The church had earlier requested to chime the hour at 60 percent of the carillon's volume from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with special music to be played on special occasions.
The Rev. Steve Smith testified that he views the carillon as "a beautiful sign of God's presence."
"It's very rare that any community has this kind of problem over a church carillon," Smith, the church's pastor, said.
Blake Freeman, an attorney for four couples who filed a lawsuit against the church, said in closing arguments that the church "can still do good work" without playing "this machine."
"They just won't be interfering with our lives," Freeman told jurors.
The lawsuit said the chimes, which were installed in September, awakened babies and provoked dogs to bark. The lawsuit sought to have to chimes permanently silenced.
Walter Collins, a Metro Health Department engineer, testified that the carillon at its loudest is comparable to a freight train passing by at a distance of 100 feet.
The carillon may strike the hour at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily and can play a hymn each hour, plus special hymns at weddings and on Easter and Christmas Eve, jurors decided.
A judge had first ordered the two sides to settle their differences out of court but signed a restraining order Jan. 29 barring the church from playing the carillon until the issue could be decided in court.
Plaintiffs had also complained about the church's lighted sign, but that dispute was settled when the Metro Nashville Board of Zoning Appeals ordered the church to turn off the sign at 9:39 p.m. each day.