More data wanted as Woodstock noise ordinance amendment tabled

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

Woodstock City Hall. (Photo courtesy of the City of Woodstock)

The Woodstock City Council has tabled a proposed amendment to the noise ordinance, in favor of gathering more information, including enforcement, during a March 19 meeting.

The unanimous 5-0 vote to set aside the measure signaled an effort to further review stipulations and sound level thresholds, while possibly working out an amicable solution.

The push for the ordinance has come from residents who have identified two businesses that are sources of excessive noise: Kingston Lanes Bowling and Sports Lounge, 1330 S. Eastwood Drive in Woodstock; and Niko’s Red Mill Tavern, 1040 Lake Avenue. Both establishments have begun offering live entertainment, although most governmental bodies have found noise ordinances difficult to enforce.

“The city council felt more information was needed in order to make a proper decision before moving forward with this proposal,” said Woodstock City Manager Roscoe Stelford. “Residents, event organizers and facilitators need to have a seat at the table for discussions on their concerns and how to alleviate their concerns. Places like Niko’s and Kingston Lanes have been named by residents, and more places are offering live entertainment to their patrons. Those concerns need to be discussed.”

Residents along Southview Drive in October tendered a petition to the city council about loud music, with the two venues identified as the primary sources of excessive noise: Kingston Lanes Bowling and Sports Lounge, located at 1330 S. Eastwood Drive in Woodstock; and Niko’s Red Mill Tavern, located at 1040 Lake Ave., venues listed as the primary locations.

The Woodstock Police Department uses a decibel meter, and the device has captured signal measurements for comparisons during public events.

“I don’t know how well other jurisdictions go about their enforcement, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that these other municipalities with noise ordinances on the books typically have no real way to enforce it,” said Woodstock Police Chief John Lieb. “The city of Woodstock now owns a sound meter that can be calibrated. The claim is their readings will stand up in court, and the unit can be deployed in the field to obtain on-site measurements.”

He noted the ordinance should address threshold levels and circumstances. “The goal is compliance. Hopefully, they will turn it down or a written citation will be issued to the offenders. Then, our officers can go about their business,” he said.

The ordinance wording seeks to ban noise that is above the 62-decibel mark, from 100 feet beyond the source property line. The current ordinance, enacted in February 2013, encompasses the same noises are unreasonable and likely to disturb: sound from commercial use of machinery, music, voices, items such as televisions, stereos, and radios. The ban would be effective from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Chief Lieb formally submitted a letter to council members explaining the amendment, and its differentiations of sound in sound decibel levels. From Sept. 26 through Nov. 4, department personnel on the midnight shift conducted decibel readings on various items and locations. “Sound around a building with a buffer of grass changes the amplification, and obstructions can also cause a change in the reading,” he said.

The amendment specifies that the city manager, mayor, or liquor commissioner can authorize exemptions for special events, and exemptions are summarily given to emergency response vehicles, contractors employed by the city, and does not extend to events being held within in city-owned buildings and on city-owned property, as well as the workers.

“As for presenting again, it will be some time yet,” said Stelford. “The city council wants more data and readings to be collected during the spring and summer months, when the noise season is here, before pursuing this.”

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