by Eric Ginsburg

randomly compiled by Eric Ginsburg

Ten best questions about the noise ordinance

So what’s the problem?

While there have been noise complaints throughout the city, the main thrust to change the ordinance emanated from Roy Carroll, the developer of — and resident in — Center Pointe and targeted nearby Greene Street Club, a public-records request by YES! Weekly revealed. Mayor Robbie Perkins subsequently pushed for council to address the issue.

Why do people oppose it?

Opponents of the ordinance packed the council meeting last week, waiting for hours for the item to be addressed. “It also seems to be anti-youth in its basic tenets,” said Stephen Kent, who attended the meeting. “It’s extreme and seems to cater to a very small group of people. I just want my kid to grow up in a city that’s alive and has culture and art.” People who spoke at the meeting expressed similar sentiments, including that Greene Street was being targeted and that few people have a problem with the current ordinance.

Why didn’t Roy Carroll speak?

If Carroll has such deep problems with the noise from downtown clubs and wants to see the ordinance changed, why didn’t he speak at the council meeting like everyone else? Numerous people brought him up but he wasn’t there to defend his position — instead his lawyer Henry Isaacson spoke on his behalf and for other unnamed downtown residents. Carroll has also refused to speak to YES! Weekly.

Why no comparison to Winston-Salem?

In trying to figure out a reasonable ordinance, city staff looked up ordinances in Raleigh, Charlotte, Wilmington and Greenville, SC. As YES! Weekly’s recent coverage has shown, Winston-Salem’s council is actually encouraging noise downtown, hoping to attract more residents and business. Given the city’s similar size and proximity, it seems to be a glaring omission.

Should Perkins recuse himself?

In a Sept. 1, 2011 letter to Green Street owner Kenny Efird, the president of the Center Pointe Condominium Owners Association wrote that, “[T]he ongoing disturbances by the Club will adversely impact sales of units at Center Pointe, especially if calls to the police regarding the noise violations persist.” Perkins admitted he is the leasing agent for the first floor of Center Pointe, and if a stricter ordinance would arguably benefit Center Pointe financially, Perkins stands to gain. Interim City Attorney Jamiah Waterman said last week that Perkins should recuse himself from a separate vote involving Carroll, but not the noise ordinance.

What’s a reasonable decibel level?

Council tentatively compromised on 75 decibels. At the meeting last week, Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann said it was louder in her suburban driveway. The initial changes brought to council in February proposed 45 decibels and police Chief Ken Miller suggested 70 decibels. Many feel the 75 threshold is still too low and an arbitrary enforcement tool.

Where should the decibels be measured?

As it stands, the noise ordinance requires police to measure decibels 25 feet from outside the building where the sound is coming from, which some have said would put police in the middle of the street. Before the changes, the decibel reading was conducted where the complaint was made, which some people said was invasive because police were entering bedrooms to get a reading.

What about false alarms?

Greene Street general manager Grady Green told council police have showed up at the club due to a noise complaint when it wasn’t even open, and club owners say it has happened more than once. Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter suggested there be a penalty for residents who call in false alarms, similar to when the police or fire departments respond to other false calls.

Is Greene Street a bad neighbor?

Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer placed all the blame on Greene Street and called the club a bad neighbor. Yet lawyer Jim Weeks, whose practice is two doors from the club and who lives very close by, said he has never been disturbed by noise from Greene Street even though his practice predates the club. Weeks spoke against the ordinance at the council meeting and sent Perkins a letter too.

So now what?

The council will formally approve the changes it made at the last meeting, including increasing the decibel level and removing the criminal charge component for offenders and making the first offense a warning. Abuzuaiter’s false-alarm proposal wasn’t voted on but may still be addressed.

The city will experiment with a 120-day trial period without charges and see if the proposed changes are manageable and reasonable.