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Council approves study aimed at mitigating music venue sound issues

Monday, February 6, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council unanimously opted last week to move forward with a new loan program designed to help mitigate sound issues at downtown music venues. Council members authorized up to $40,000 to be spent on a sound mitigation case study at a yet-undetermined downtown venue. The money comes from an existing, unused fund.

 

The case study is the first step in establishing a low-interest loan program intended to help clubs revamp their current sound systems.

 

Austin Music Program Director Don Pitts hopes that it will be a way to address sound ordinance issues in a way other than police enforcement or another revamp of the sound ordinance.

“We’re seeing that bars and venues downtown, they need better sound systems… and it costs money. So I think in order for us to raise the bar without going through a new legislation process, we can raise the bar through a resource program,” said Pitts.

 

“This will go a long way to helping solve these problems,” Pitts told In Fact Daily. “We could add 20 more pages to the sound ordinance and it wouldn’t solve anything. I think this is a good first step, and I think being proactive is key.”

 

Council also voted to direct the City Manager to change the name of the program from the “Downtown Venue Relocation Program” to the “Music Venue Assistance Program.”

 

“The Downtown Venue Relocation Program was an old program written years ago for the Liberty Lunch. The manner in which it was written was for a specific area, and specific as to who qualified,” said Pitts. 

 

“It’s been sitting there for 10 years or so, since about 2003. It’s been there for quite a while. It has $245,000 in it, so we, the Music Commission, and other music venue owners said, ‘Let’s use this fund for something good, or obviously we’re going to lose it,’” he said.

 

Though the resolution states that Council may add $100,000 per year to the fund until a balance of $750,000 is reached, that number is set in stone. Council Member Laura Morrison added a friendly amendment making it explicit that funding is dependent on the results of the case study.

 

Those results will be presented to Council in 180 days.

 

Frequent City Council speaker Clay Dafoe expressed concerns that the fund was an “underhanded effort to undermine the music scene downtown” and move venues away from the downtown area.

 

Council Member Bill Spelman assured him, and others who might have similar worries, that this was not the case.

 

“I believe what Mr. Dafoe mentioned is the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish here,” said Spelman. “When you have a whole lot of people living, and trying to sleep, and you have a whole bunch of music venues playing, quite properly, in the middle of the night, you are going to have some difficulty.”

 

“I want to keep the venues open, I want to be able to make this a good place for people to live as well, and I think we can have both of those things happen at the same time,” said Spelman.

 

Pitts told In Fact Daily that they would be looking for a complex case-study that will show exactly what works in order to have a something tangible to point to that illustrates the program’s efficacy.  He also stressed that whatever venue was selected would be asked to buy into the “game.”

 

The Music Commission is set to discuss the specifics of the program during tonight’s meeting.

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