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Council streamlines conflicting code to improve sound ordinance

Monday, March 2, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

On Thursday City Council took action to clean up a confusing element of the city’s sound ordinance, paving the way for a more comprehensive and efficient approach to regulating live entertainment in the Live Music Capital of the World. In a 6-0 vote, with Mayor Will Wynn off the dais, Council members voted to incorporate two conflicting sections of city code into one chapter.


Before Thursday, one section of the city’s Land Development Code stated that restaurants must have a maximum 70-decibel limit at the property-line for amplified sound. A second section referring to commercial recreation allowed no more than 70 decibels of sound. But an outdoor live music permit under the city’s sound ordinance, known as Chapter Nine, allows an establishment to have decibel levels of 85.


Now, all three references are located in the same chapter of city laws. Bobby Garza, aide to Council Member Mike Martinez and task force member, told In Fact Daily, “We want to be able to come back on March 13 and have a very comprehensive process for outdoor music venue permits that everybody understands and doesn’t have conflicting statements in other parts.”


Unfortunately for the hard of hearing and rock purists, moving the sections of the land development code now means that all amplified entertainment – indoor, outdoor, permit or no, should not be louder than 70 db. In March, Council members are expected to further tweak Chapter Nine. Right now, the idea has been, “let’s focus on compatibility not numbers,” said Garza.


Another issue that Council may soon be wrestling with is balancing sound levels in neighborhoods with the sound downtown. Proposed entertainment districts may be a way to let certain sections of town turn up the volume a bit more. While Council Member Laura Morrison characterized the proceedings thus far as “a love-fest,” there’s still plenty of work to be done as the city slowly organizes an internal music department and a comprehensive sound ordinance.

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