In response to the increasing volume of noise complaints in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, city council launched a one-year pilot program called the Glenwood South Hospitality District. The district will be responsible for enforcing the city’s new noise ordinance and mediating complaints among the growing number of nightclubs, restaurants and bars in the district. If approved, the program will establish a complaint registration system and publish contact information for the loudest businesses. Police could issue fines as high as $5,000 if the noise decibel levels exceed the newly established limits. The one-year pilot is scheduled to run through November 30, 2015.
City leaders hope this new pilot program will help quell the tensions between neighborhood residents and business owners. In the past, increased police enforcement of noise complaints in the area, known for its nightlife on Friday and Saturday nights, led bars to seek new outdoor sound permits to keep their doors propped open while music plays inside. Each permit required a city council hearing, which could last for hours as businesses and neighbors square off.
Under the new noise ordinance rules, amplified entertainment permit holders may play live or recorded music until 2AM on Friday and Saturday and until 11PM on other days. The city also has set new decibel levels for daytime and nighttime activities. Noise is limited to 60 decibels on Sunday through Thursday from 7AM to 11PM and Friday and Saturday between 7AM and 2PM. Nighttime noise will be limited to 55 decibels on Sunday through Thursday from 11PM to 7AM. The pilot program also creates a system for registering complaints that is available to the general public, encouraging more direct interaction between bar owners and residents to address noise complaints. The new and improved complaint process helps alleviate a burden once experienced by the complaint filer. In many cities, the procedure to file a late-night complaint entails a resident calling police and waiting for the officer to arrive at the home and hope the noise is still perceptible.
Now, businesses within the district must designate a premises manager available to the public concerning operations whenever the business is open, occupied, or when employees are on site. The ordinance also establishes a mediation process for resolving noise complaints, as well as an escalating series of civil penalties for violations of the permit provisions.
The contact information for permitted businesses is now available via a new Interactive Hospitality District Map website. Red circles indicate the locations of businesses holding Hospitality District Entertainment Permits (HDEPs). Once a user opens the interactive map, they will be able to select locations to view the business’ contact information or create an online complaint. The user is also able to file a complaint online through the same interactive map.
Several other cities, such as Austin and Denver, developed plans for dealing with late night noise through regulations and partnerships. Planners are also considering architecture design and building acoustics as potential solutions.
Has downtown noise become a major development concern for your city? What other solutions are available for city governments to mitigate noise?
Credits: Images by Rachel Eberhard. Data linked to sources.