CORNELIUS – Commissioners have been putting their ear to the ground to consider suggestions for a new noise ordinance.
Existing rules are subjective and allow for interpretation.
“If they call and say they are disturbed, police go out to see if it’s disturbing,” Deputy Town Manager and Planning Director Wayne Herron said. “It’s worked fairly well.”
There are no time-of-day restrictions or concrete rules for public entertainment, which is becoming more prevalent in the town’s growing arts scene. It’s led to increased noise complaints as well as concerns form prospective venue owners.
Staff and members of the town’s Land Development Code Advisory Board (LDCAB) studied what other towns do and have suggested Cornelius employ a standard decibel measurement. Normal conversation registers at about 60 decibels, according to Senior Planner Becky Partin. Charlotte and Greensboro have ordinances that limit noise 85 decibels outside a venue.
“LDCAB conducted a sound test and experienced up to 100 (decibels),” Partin said, adding the tests took place at the property line of the source.
The advisory board recommended a cap for noise measured outside of venues at 100 decibels between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 75 between 9 p.m. and 10 a.m. the Sunday through Thursday. The 100-decibel allowance would extend to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
There are also proposed extensions for some holidays, including New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, and Memorial and Labor Day weekends.
Commissioner Kurt Naas said he felt 100 may be too high. He added that several factors affect sound.
“There is no perfect number,” Herron said. “You are going to get complaints no matter what the number is. If you have 65, you still get complaints.”
The proposed ordinance also would allow the town to fine an entertainment venue for a vibration offense if a nearby resident reports it as causing “a person of normal sensitivity to be aware of the motion through contact or through visual observation of moving objects.” Naas said it’s a pretty high threshold if dishes have to be falling for it to count.
“We kept it subjective on the last paragraph to accommodate comments and concerns regarding bass,” Partin said.
To start, the proposed noise-ordinance changes would only affect venues within and south of the Automotive Sales District Overlay on U.S. 21, the Business Campus and Town Center zoning districts. That area includes BoatYard Eats, which opened last fall; the future arts center and arts district; and the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery property.
“If this works, which we hope and believe it will, we will re-evaluate and apply it to other areas of town,” Herron said. “We wanted to use the outdoor entertainment places to test it out. If it works well at (U.S.) 21, the arts district and Olde Meck, we may apply it to West Catawba and other areas.”
Violation of the noise ordinance would lead to fines for repeated offenses.
The official ordinance is slated to be presented to the board for approval April 15.