Council mulls noise ordinance amendment
Business owners and community members joined the Boone Town
Council last Thursday to discuss amending a controversial noise ordinance.
At the Aug. 18 Boone Town Council meeting, more than 100 members of Boone’s downtown music scene came to speak out against the measure. The town council responded by enacting a moratorium on enforcement for the business district until issues could be resolved.
Capt. Jim Wilson, employed by the Boone Police Department since 1984, came before the council Thursday to ask for direction. Since the moratorium, he and his fellow officers have been unable to respond to noise complaints.
“After the moratorium was placed, we still received numerous calls on noise in the business district, but due to the fact that there was a moratorium … we did not keep a running tally,” he said, although he did say seven complaints were on “one particular business.”
“We had hoped (businesses) would … take a self-initiated effort to control the noise themselves, and I am well aware of even some calls that were met with some arrogance, where we did answer a call, and it was not an air of cooperation,” he said. “We couldn’t just ask them, ‘Could you just turn it down a little bit to help us,’ it was more of, ‘We have a moratorium, you can’t enforce the noise ordinance.’”
Wilson said no businesses have contacted the police department regarding permits since the moratorium was put in place. Additionally, recorded noise complaints don’t represent all the calls, he said, citing numbers from Sept. 7, 2010, to Sept. 7, 2011, that put 26 calls to one business.
Complaints, he said, are generally coming from the Grand Boulevard area and between Horn in the West and the N.C. 105 Extension.
Council member Andy Ball said he wouldn't be opposed to exemptions on the Municipal Service District, where the noise ordinance is concerned. “I would be in favor of looking at whether there should be a blanket exemption of downtown,” he said.
Mark Dixon, owner of Galileo's Bar and Cafe, said that wouldn't work for his business, located just outside of downtown. Very few businesses play live music, he said.
“If it's done by the MSD, you're exempting half of them,” Dixon said. “I'm not sure how fair that is.”
Dixon also took issue with the objectivity of what constitutes a noise violation.
“I got the impression that the council had a much more liberal view of what a reasonable noise is than you did,” Dixon said to Wilson. “Somehow (you all) are going to have to make sure you're on the same page. … I think that has to be hashed out or we're going to be back here in six months to a year because we're going to be fighting again.”
Grand Boulevard Terry Taylor said noise wasn't a problem in his neighborhood until businesses started playing live music.
“We have to keep in mind who has been impacted by noise, these residential neighborhoods,” he said. “We've got single family residences with children, part of them go to school, the rest work dayshift hours. We're talking about people who need to be able to sleep after 10 p.m. That's the bottom line with me. I would like to be able to sleep after 10, 11 o'clock.”
Since the moratorium, 50 baffles, or noise obstruction devices, were placed in the Boone Saloon.
“During the moratorium we did have the police call … it was not antagonistic at all,” Boone Saloon owner Skip Sinanian said. “I don't know what a silver bullet would be, but I am appreciating Andy (Ball)'s idea. We are a business. We pay taxes. We offer a lot.”
Brad Harmon, who lives and works next to the Boone Saloon, said he never gets to sleep on the weekends because of live music and smokers standing outside the bars.
“I'm thinking of the children,” he said. “I'll fight for them. I'm thinking of them. I remember the way Boone used to be … nice and peaceful.”