While the pandemic put a pause on the Noise Ordinance revisions it also allowed City staff to further engage Asheville’s music community and downtown residents and be part of the City’s Reimagining Public Safety conversation.
And because this initiative began under a previous City Council, Development Services Director Ben Woody gave an update to the current City Council about the proposed Noise Ordinance revisions during their June 22 meeting.
The guiding principles behind the Noise Ordinance revisions are that the community has a right to an environment free from excessive noise and that excessive noise can pose a public health, welfare and safety hazard. It can also be reasonably addressed with clear, enforceable and effective measures that balance reasonable needs of residents, visitors, facilities and operations, and recognize that all parties are essential to a thriving local economy.
In 2019, the City’s Development Services Department conducted a vigorous community outreach to neighborhoods and businesses about top noise concerns in the city, through 35+ meetings/forums, in addition to gathering 880 public comments, and 1490 online and paper surveys. Then, in early 2020, as the engagement team was prepared to go to the public with the draft ordinance the pandemic hit.
Also in 2020, the City began Reimagining Public Safety and as part of that reimagining conversation turned to for noise enforcement positions being absorbed into Development Services. Here’s a look at how the Noise Control Program is proposed to work:
- Staff administration in the Development Services Department (DSD), to include Noise Control Administrator and Noise Compliance Officer.
- Educational resources for residents/businesses/institutions/industries.
- Good Neighbor policy with clear guidance to residents/businesses for handling common noise issues
- Noise enforcement manual that outlines detailed enforcement protocols.
- Development Notification System that notifies residents of permitted noise activity. People in the Central Business District, near McCormick Field or who live off Haywood Road could sign up for it.
- Review noise ordinance for improvements every 18 months – 2 years.
Equity strategies would include:
- Clear and accessible information about Noise Ordinance.
- The City would first seek to address noise issues through education and community resources before punitive measures like civil penalties and permit revocation.
- Staff would ensure residents have equitable access to lodge noise complaints.
- We will use data to identify, track and fairly address noise complaints.
- Staff will use community relationships and City organizational resources to address chronic noise issues.
Speaking of data, noise enforcement will be a data-driven process under the proposed Noise Ordinance revisions. Noise complaints from commercial, industrial and Central Business Districts are proposed to be measured using a certified sound meter. Decibel levels will be measured on the neighbor’s property in the proximity where the sound is being experienced using the average decibel level of one minute. An objective decibel limit standard chart was drawn for Asheville as compared from other cities across the Carolinas.
“DSD staff have worked with many sectors of the community — including our music venues and residents associations — to come up with a Noise Ordinance proposal that is fair for our residents and for our business community. It’s taken a lot of conversation and a lot of consideration on all sides,” said Development Services Director Ben Woody. “Excessive noise is a quality of life and health issue and the City is going to address it as equitably as possible.”
The proposed Noise Ordinance Revisions could come for a vote before City Council as soon as their July meeting, following requests to get the matter across the finish line during public comment at the June 22 Council meeting.