After numerous meetings and studies, and spurred on by increasing expansion of festivals and unregulated neighborhood clubs, the coalition of neighborhoods say they want to be sure music and culture is protected, and the assault from unregulated, amplified noise is contained.
“A noise regulation system that is fair and functional is actually pro music,” said Coalition Chair Nathan Chapman, a local businessman who 20 years ago moved his residence because of chronic noise problems. “It protects the health and hearing of our musicians and it allows a higher quality, more enjoyable listening experience.”
Taking it upon themselves to organize, the neighborhood organizations agreed on seven essential items to fix the city’s noise ordinance and presented them to the Council leaders.
SEVEN ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO MAKE THE NOISE ORDINANCE WORK
1. Establishments that offer live entertainment must take reasonable measures to assure compliance with the requirements of the noise ordinance. Such measures include, but are not limited to, developing and implementing a sound control program and documenting sound level measurements to be kept on file at the premises.
2. Appoint a full time person who will have the authority and affirmative duty to administer and enforce the ordinances, and who shall have the full backing of NOPD and Health Department, and who shall establish and maintain a publicly accessible (via interactive website) centralized record-keeping system to track complaints, enforcement and compliance efforts.
3. Amend ordinance to clarify that all measurements of sound emanating from private or public property in all zoning districts will be taken at the property line of the source of the sound.
4. In order to impose penalties that will deter repeat offenses for abuse of sound ordinance standards, pass state legislation to allow higher or unlimited fines. In the absence of this legislation, consider other deterrents such as limited operating hours or complete shut down of the offending establishment.
5. Make significant revisions to the Mayoralty permitting process to ensure advance public notification and opportunities for public comment prior to granting a mayoralty permit authorizing a sound-producing land-use to the requesting establishment.
6. (Would pertain only to French Quarter) Return decibel levels in Vieux Carré Commercial (VCC) and Vieux Carré Residential (VCR) districts to the following levels which existed in 1989 in the French Quarter and which still currently exist in the Marigny.
7. (Would pertain only to French Quarter) Enforce a maximum of 85 Lmax in the VCE for sound protruding into the public space. This maximum helps ensure that citizens and involuntary listeners won’t be exposed to sound beyond acceptable industrial levels. Also, maintain ambient as the standard in the VCE but use as “db level 10 above ambient noise level, not to exceed Lmax 85 db.”
At the present time, there is no noise control program in the City of New Orleans; noise control and monitoring programs are not funded; the police department, assigned to respond to noise complaints, lacks necessary equipment and training; and the Safety and Permits Department has been reprimanded by the Council for approving illegal live entertainment permits in the name of city revenue, say the neighborhood leaders.
Illegal noise in New Orleans is not a new problem, but it has proliferated since Hurricane Katrina, as unlicensed music venues set up shop in neighborhoods from Marigny to Touro Bouligny, in violation of city zoning ordinances. One police officer ended up in Municipal Court over a citation he issued to a Bourbon Street bar because the he could not hear his police radio due to unregulated noise in New Orleans.
Residents have hired experts to document that there is zero enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance by the police department, few trained officers in noise enforcement outside the Quarter, and worse, no working noise monitors on most nights.
“As New Orleanians, music is part of our DNA. We respect the spontaneity of a secondline and treasure our homegrown musicians. But serious musicians, event organizers and club owners work hard to reward us with wonderful melodies at sensible times with proper volumes, because their talent depends on being able to hear,” said President Val Exnicios, Algiers Neighborhood Presidents Council.
“The City must demonstrate a rigorous responsibility for proper event permitting and noise enforcement, so that our quality of life ordinances are not completely obliterated,” said Carol Allen, VCPORA.
Residents in the Marigny recently fought back in the court system to regain their rights to protect their neighborhoods and homes, and won.
“We’ll all win when the rules are clear, consistent and enforced,” Ms. Allen added.
Contact: C. Brylski/D. Johnson (504) 897-6110