(Crystal A. Proxmire, 7-11-2011)
The long debate over noise in Downtown Ferndale will be discussed again at City Council tonight. The Council Packet, which you can view online at http://www.ferndale-mi.com/Services/Cable/CityCouncilVideo.htm, contains the proposed changes as well as memos from involved parties.
The proposed ordinance chance would reduce the level of decibels allowed in the central business district, and would require permits for outdoor speaker systems.
A memo from City Attorney Daniel Christ explains the history of the issue:
“Residents have expressed concerns and complaints regarding noise levels in the community. In particular, noise levels in residential districts where the sound is originating in an abutting commercial district or the CBD district. The DDA held a meeting to discuss noise concerns and at its August 2010 meeting made certain suggestions.
‘The Ordinance Committee met in August 2010 to discuss the existing noise ordinance and recommended certain amendments be adopted and that additional noise measurements taken or a noise consultant be retained.
‘At a Special Meeting on September 20, 2010, Council considered the existing noise ordinance, the background concerning the noise ordinance and discussed the proposed noise ordinance amendments. Council discussed various issues associated with noise levels in the City and questions arose regarding whether new maximum permissible sound level limits for DB(A) and DB(C) limits should be considered. Council declined to adopt amendments and resolved to retain Kolano & Saha Engineers, acoustical engineers to undertake a review of the noise ordinance and make recommendations for Council’s consideration regarding any ordinance amendments.”
The Downtown Development Authority raised the following objections to the ordinance in their memo to the City (also available on the City of Ferndale website)
There were key issues why the DDA Board didn’t support the proposed noise ordinance modifications, including:
• There was not a new sound test conducted by the consultant, which raised skepticism of the proposed lowering by 5dB; sound consultant used his bases from previous sound tests conducted by City Attorney and Police Chief from 2001/2 and sound samplings conducted over the course of the years by police officers. Question over accuracy of previous sound measurements was raised. Concern was expressed as to the validity of old measurements and using these as a reference point for changes. How did the sound consultant determine that 5dB was the amount it needed to be lowered?
• There was not a demonstration by the sound consultant of the proposed noise difference between 70dB and 75dB; since every individual perceives sound differently, this proved to be even more questionable as to what sound is being gauged against.
• From a legal perspective, there are numerous challenges. In the court of law, there is not the availability of a secondary test to show accuracy, so every case is subject to being fought. As well as, if there were two competing systems right next to each other, it would be very hard to determine which one was causing the problem and therefore hard to determine enforcement.
• How does police measure accuracy of sound levels from amplified noise when human voices add to the volume. How do you differentiate between music, cars, voices, etc? How is conversational noise addressed and is that differentiated between music noise? How does a business determine how many people can go on the patio to keep within noise compliance?
• A small percentage of residents have complained about noise and it was questioned whether or not this would actually resolve the issue. Enforcement issues may persist regardless, costing the City. Some citizens may still persist in reducing the noise levels further, no matter how low the Council sets it.
• The Board felt that their desire to have a consultant help and give them ways to deal with subduing noise, not just say turn it down, was not addressed. The Board requested help with containment of noise in voting for hiring a sound expert. There were no suggestions in how to dampen sound or redirect sound, machinery to certain areas. Concern expressed over the fact that the reason some businesses invested in Ferndale was the ability to have great patios, and this may be a major detriment to economic growth and sustainability.
• Third-party special events seem to be given more privileges than a tax payer and business who has invested in the City.
In September 2010 Troy Street Resident Sherry Wells led a petition drive to have the noise ordinance changed, mainly motivated by noise from Rosie O’Grady’s which is located at the corner of Troy and W. 9 Mile. The petition failed to get the required number of signatures, however Council proceeded to hire consultants and look into the issue.
Residents and business owners will have an opportunity to speak at tonight’s meeting, which is at 7:30pm at City Hall (300 E. 9 Mile). To view the proposed ordinance changes, and other documentation visit the City of Ferndale website at http://www.ferndale-mi.com/Services/Cable/CityCouncilVideo.htm.
Other Noise Issue Article: