Initial thoughts on noise


I always find that noise complaints about local venues with music elicit complicated feelings. On one hand I understand someone’s need to have their home not be inundated with unwanted loudness. On the other, I feel like city municipal code is pretty stringent on unwanted noise, especially when it’s amplified.

City Code says that no sound produced through a sound amplifier or “similar device” can exceed 65 decibels as measured by a sound level meter. Sound level meters measure sound pressure in units of decibels and Code says measurements to complaints should be A-weighted. That means that the measurement is adjusted to sound pressure level readings to reflect how sensitive our ears are. Measurement on complaints is also taken from the receiving property and not the property of where the noise is coming from.

Fines related to breaking those rules would personally terrify me to host music, but then again, I don’t own an establishment that has music. I just enjoy the ones that do. In one-year, the first offense is $50 – $250, second is $100 – $500, and third is $500 – $1,000 and revocation of sound amplification permit “if applicable.”

Of course, readings when a complaint is issued are not supposed to take in the sound, of say, a crowd cheering. Still, those fines would make me nervous beyond belief and it is certainly not in the best interest of any business to go testing the limits of Code relating to noise.

I think the only thing the sound ordinance does not account for is what happens when noise carries beyond more than one property line? I am reminded of a year Eureka Springs held their fireworks show from Marble Flats and I was volunteering at the library lock-in. The noise of the fireworks from atop the hills carried into the valley and quite truly sounded as if one were standing directly underneath them.

Living in the Ozarks, one gets used to the concept that our deep valleys and hollers (technical term) are great at carrying sound, with the walls of the valley bouncing it back and forth. Having lived on Cliff Street before moving to Holiday Island some years ago I remember the cacophony motorcycles can make from Main Street, and how easily it carries without losing its oomph (another technical term).

Should code related to noise and the sound ordinance, by extension, include such provisions? Noise in Eureka Springs is part of living here. Even on the quietest nights it does not match the silence I get now living on the back end of Holiday Island.

I think businesses have more than enough deterrents to want to avoid any complaints and find solutions that will bring those complaints annually to zip, nada, and nothing.

No business is in the business of losing money where money could have been earned. The cost of making that mistake twice, or god-forbid a third time, are all too costly for a restaurant or bar where music is an attraction.

Like the headline says, these are initial thoughts and possibly the first of many. The owners of Wanderoo Lodge and Gravel Bar speaking at Public Comments during a city council meeting, and mentioning people wanting to change the sound ordinance mostly prompted this. I can’t comment on whether or not they are following City Code on noise but I think City Code does more than enough as is.

Jeremiah Alvarado

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