|A flyer by Bennett College this week|
When the Greensboro City Council meets on Tuesday, there will be a familiar item on the agenda. Councilwomen Nancy Hoffmann, Marikay Abuzuaiter and Nancy Vaughan are bringing forward two significant revisions to the noise ordinance that are likely to pass, several council members said.
After lowering the nighttime threshold from 75 to 65 decibels and switching from A to C weighting (which is designed to pick up bass frequencies better but essentially drops the reading an additional 10 decibels) in July, the threshold level is back on the agenda for a very good reason: the current level is unenforceable.
Opponents of the July revisions — the second round of changes since council first tackled the issue in early 2012 — argued that ambient noise would be a problem with C-weighted 65 decibel level, and that's exactly what police and council members found out. Vaughan said that readings taken outside of closed venues were crossing the 65 decibel threshold. (Council initially considered a 60 dB limit in July but Vaughan convinced a majority of members to bump it to 65 dB).
To reach an enforceable level, council will now consider raising the decibel threshold back to 75 but will retain the C-weighting system it put in place in July. But before you rejoice or panic, there's more.
Council will also consider — and likely pass — a ban on outdoor amplified noise after 11 p.m. Greene Street Club and Syn & Sky, two downtown clubs with rooftop venues, are the obvious target of the ban. Greene Street's lawyer Norman Klick and Syn & Sky owner Mike Carter could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reiterating her statements from council's discussion in July, Vaughan said club owners did not protect the initial ordinance changes that turned Greensboro into the loudest city in the state and possibly the Southeast.
"I was pretty frustrated with some of the clubs and the way they were managing noise and it just appears they can’t do it," she said. "It really didn’t seem to matter to them. It’s unfortunate that we have to come back a third time but hopefully the third time’s the charm."
Vaughan and Hoffmann said they were responding to feedback from the Greensboro Police Department about issues with amplified noise, and Mayor Robbie Perkins said this round of changes will make enforcement easier because the 11 p.m. ban will be more clear cut.
"I think the big thing is, do we want our officers out after noise complaints or do we want them out after more serious crimes?" he said. "I’d have voted for this in the first round, we just didn’t have the majority of the council where we needed to be at that time. We’re at the end of a long road."
Hoffmann said she would be surprised if any revisions were needed after this, but added, "I never say never."
Hoffmann said that part of the issue was that the C weighting hadn't been adequately tested before council's vote in July, but Vaughan said she and Abuzuaiter went out with police to see the C weighting in action before the last round of revisions. Yet after having the rules on the books for several weeks, Vaughan said it was clear that the ordinance wasn't workable based on more experience with the changes.
The changes are necessary, Vaughan said, but she's disappointed the noise ordinance needs to be placed on the agenda again. So is Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson.
"I don’t know what I can make of that," Johnson said less than an hour after finding out it would come before council on Tuesday. "I think we ought to do something fair… and we need to stick with it. I just want us to get to a point where it’s a win-win and leave it there. I’m tired of it."