Members of BNC’s policy research work group recently made specific suggestions to the city for changes to the noise ordinance and its enforcement, as well as additions to the criteria used to evaluate applications for noise permits. The recommendations were reviewed in a meeting with staff working on livability issues as a follow up to a discussion with the city manager.
Other cities with vibrant live music scenes have policies that strike a better balance between outdoor amplified music and livability in nearby residential areas. We suggested that Bend follow the model of either Charlottesville, VA or Austin, TX. The former sets lower decibel limits than used in Bend, while the latter measures sound levels at the property line of the source of the music, rather than at the property of a “noise sensitive” person. Austin also requires an annual permit for all outdoor music venues and a sound impact evaluation by trained technicians.
To improve enforcement, we suggested shifting responsibility from the police (for whom noise complaints are and should be a low priority) to a sound technician authorized to enforce the code. Many other cities use this approach.
We also suggested that the criteria for approving or denying variance requests include the commonly-used standards of proximity, frequency, and duration. Most cities prohibit exceeding the limits in the noise ordinance within a certain distance of residential areas. They also restrict how long and how often events can impact a particular neighborhood.
To read or download BNC’s noise recommendations, click here.