Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NOISE: The Charlottesville City Council, Bel Rio, and Balancing Sleep and Music

We watched the City Council meeting on Monday night, during which the Belmont/Fontaine noise ordinance was debated.

424. What's the loudest restaurant in the Fontaine area? I assume it's probably Durty Nelly's when they bring bands in -- though the Council emphasized that the main point of contention is Belmont (and in particular Bel Rio).

425. Which local band currently draws the biggest crowds? Is it Sons of Bill or someone else?

I was sad that I missed the public comment portion because I was curious to see the way that the supporters and opponents framed their arguments about the ordinance.

I cannot decide how I feel about this one: I love music and I love mixed-use neighborhoods, but I used to struggle (occasionally) with loud late-night noise coming off Main Street, so I can also understand the complaining neighbors' point-of-view. Now that I'm thinking about it, it kind of reminds me of "quiet time" at Squam when I was a kid: I used to detest the idea of having to keep my voice down in the middle of the afternoon, but at some point in life I started to appreciate the mid-day respite.

At any rate: during the meeting, David Brown proposed establishing the threshhold at 65 decibels, rather than 60 as was originally contemplated. Brown said that he wanted to err on the side of not driving places out-of-business (and Council could come back and lower the limit later, if necessary). Kristin Szakos argued that 65 won't address the bulk of recent complaints (since the measurement is from neighboring properties). Dave Norris sided with Brown, and unfortunately neither Holly Edwards or Huja explained the basis for their position. Ultimately, Brown, Norris and Edwards voted for the 65 decibel limit, and then the Council unanimously approved the new ordinance.

It sounds like they'll re-visit the issue in three months, and I am curious to see whether the issue now disappears or actually ends up re-heating when the warm weather arrives.

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