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Residents say noise from CrossFit gyms disrupting neighborhoods

Monday, July 14, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Brentwood residents whose lives are being disrupted by a new, noisy exercise trend are fed up, and they are looking to the city for help. Nikela Bryson addressed the City Council last month, explaining the problems created by two nearby CrossFit gyms.

“This type of facility encourages dropping heavy barbell weights, flipping and banging on tires, screaming encouragement, grunting and loud music. This is all done either outside and/or in their metal building with garage doors wide open,” said Bryson. “The sounds are clearly heard – and felt – six houses down, across the street, and through our foundations and closed windows throughout the day.”

The noise Bryson was talking about comes from BVM CrossFit, at 6711 Burnet Lane, which has been open for the past seven or eight months. Just five blocks away, neighbors have been disturbed by CrossFit Central, which has been open for about four years at 6205 Burnet Road

Stephanie Garrett spoke with the Austin Monitor about the situation. She lives closer to CrossFit Central.

“I’ve been dealing with this for four years,” said Garrett. “Most all of their workouts happen outside, for the most part. So all of this noise is outside starting at five in the morning. And it goes on from five in the morning till about nine or nine thirty at night. That’s seven days a week. That’s holidays. That’s weekends. That’s all the time.”

“We can’t sleep. Our kids can’t do homework,” said Garrett. “We really can’t do anything in our homes.”

Bryson, Garrett and their neighbors have been down a number of paths to try to solve the problem, following every tip that they have been given to no avail.

“If anything, things will improve for a day or two, but they just go right back to the same way that they’ve been,” said Garrett, who does not understand why police cannot stop the noise or cite the businesses for disrupting the area at such an early hour.

“We keep doing what we are told to do, but it just keeps dragging on and on and on and it just seems that we’re getting the runaround,” said Garrett. “When another one opened, we were all like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. It’s five blocks away. We can’t have another one of these that close.’”

Ultimately, calling 3-1-1, calling 9-1-1, court and court-ordered mediation has yet to change a thing. Mediation between neighbors and both gyms is currently underway. Council Members Kathie Tovo and Mike Martinez are now looking for a fix.

Martinez explained that he and Tovo had both visited the neighborhood and agreed that there were “significant issues.”

“It’s a thundering boom,” said Martinez.

Tovo spoke with the Austin Monitor and explained that the way that the code measures noise “doesn’t exactly account for the noise that is generated by that use.”

APD is having a hard time evaluating the problem. The equipment that the city uses for noise violations is not ideal for tracking short bursts of noise like the ones disturbing neighbors, making the extent of the problem difficult to evaluate.

“It doesn’t necessarily measure on the decibel meters, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disruptive to the people around it,” said Tovo.

“It is a little different when the activity is going on outside in very close proximity to single-family neighbors,” said Tovo. “It’s definitely something that I think needs some thought.”

Bryson asked the city to consider re-categorizing the gyms as outdoor recreation, instead of personal improvement services. She said the business was “masquerading as a fitness studio,” but from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, functioned like a sports facility.

Currently, the city considers uses like golf courses and soccer fields to be outdoor recreation. Changing that to include CrossFit facilities would require a code amendment, which would have to be approved by City Council. Though the current zoning of both of the Burnet establishments would not allow that use, those businesses would be grandfathered.

Tovo says the questions about use are valid, and they are currently looking into options, including asking the Planning Commission to look into whether a remedy through the city’s code might be in order. It is not clear whether that change will be in land use code or the noise ordinance.

“Under our current neighborhood plan, outdoor recreation is a prohibited use,” said Bryson. “There is a reason for that. These businesses are not compatible with residences. These businesses are being allowed to violate noise ordinances and our neighborhood plan, causing extreme mental anguish and property devaluation. Imagine living next to this.”

The Austin Monitor attempted to contact both businesses for comment, but neither returned calls.


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