City Council Meeting to address Noise Ordinance

February 16th, 2010 · 12 Comments · By

Just heard about this one last night, and got forwarded this email this AM — don’t know either of the authors, but I’ve obtained their secondhand permission to reprint the email here. I think it pretty much speaks for itself, and I wholeheartedly agree.

“Friends, Musicians, and Music Lovers,

Tomorrow evening, Tues, February 16th, the Charlottesville City Council meets in Council Chambers at City Hall from 7 to 10 PM, and among the items to discuss is the proposal to lower the sound ordinance from 75dB to 55dB. As most of you know, 55dB is roughly the equivalent of a normal conversation between two people. For a better perspective, the airhandler on your heat pump/air conditioning unit is about 65dB at 30 feet. If this ordinance receives approval, it has the potential to vastly alter what we all now know and love about the Charlottesvilles Restuarant and music scene. More than a single couple enjoying dinner on a patio and conversing would exceed the dB limit, as could a vehicle traveling at normal speeds potentially be in violation. While the ordinance seems to be aimed at music venues specifically, once it goes into effect the legal tool is there to limit much more than music. Restaurant owners with patio seating should be wary.

Is the availability of great live music among the reasons you have for living in Charlottesville? I know I talk with out-of-towners almost weekly who have come to Charlotteville for just that, an evening of dinner and music, which brings revenue into town and helps keep the taxes of those of us who live here lower than they would likely otherwise be. I know many of you are reluctant to “get involved” in anything you see as a politcal issue, but this moves beyond the political scene into the “living” area. You can count on the faction that wants to stop music after 11:00 PM to be in full force and to make their voices heard. If you choose not to be involved, theirs will be the only voices heard by the city council members and they will vote accordingly.

I am disappointed that a few people living in an area that is largely zoned commercial and whose main issue is admittedly not even the music, but rather parking and traffic, are attempting to alter the character and limit the freedom we have enjoyed in our city.

Please don’t sit back and think; “well, maybe I’ll get to the next meeting….there may well not be a next meeting if you don’t show up at this one!

I urge each of you to send this to everyone you know who values art and creativity. “

Gareth Weldon

“As Gareth says this effects ALL aspects of life as we know it – The place with external speakers that plays music would be in trouble! You could be in trouble if you’re sitting on your front porch or backyard and create any noise that is above conversation! This has little to do with business in our area, but it is part of the unforeseen consequences

“I was at the last City Council meetings and there were 5 of us and plenty of “THEM” – we managed to convince the CC that they did not understand the 55db level and they agreed to postpone their rulings until they had time to do some research – one member pledged to ride with city police to see first hand the so-called problem. I would be interested to see if ANY of this was done so far. If NOT, then they will once again be dealing with second hand information! “

Cody Parham

Tags: charlottesville · news

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gary // Feb 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    this is such garbage….i keep thinking back to the time when dbb plays caninos set up on elliewood outside robs apartment (the former reichstag) when he still lived there, outside what was then martha’s cafe.

    about 3 songs in, a few policemen showed up with a decibel meter (!), demanded that we stopped playing, despite louder bands playing at coupes 20 feet away and whatever other bands were playing the bars across the street (the biltmore or buddhist biker maybe?). i guess their loud music law license clears them of the mystical dB meter. ironically, coupes was so close that it was probably adding to what the cop thought was our noise level.

    we would play really quietly and ask him the cop what our dB volume was, before he basically told us that daniel hitting the snare by itself was basically over the limit.

    not to mention the dbb plays caninos show at the garage the following day ALSO got shut down by the noise complaints, and the house show we played a few months ago that also got shut down for being too loud.

    i have a sad suspicion that this law will pass, though i guess it can’t get any worse.

  • 2 gary // Feb 16, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    and by “the noise complaints” at the garage, i mean complaints from the ornery cops who drove by and deemed us too loud, not the angry deceased residents of the hill and wood funeral home (who, strangely enough, hate loud music)

  • 3 sarah // Feb 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    people love to have something to complain about!

  • 4 Matt // Feb 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    this is how they killed the Pud house back in the day. well, my day anyway.

  • 5 HORSEFANG // Feb 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I think everyone who plays ANY type of music in this town really needs to drop by tonight, get in line and SAY SOMETHING! But try to avoid the US versus THEM dynamic, we are speaking before CITY COUNCIL, they are the ones making the decision, and getting sucked in emotionally by speakers of differing opinion could reflect poorly on your cause.

    PS-Charlottesville City Schools budget will shrink by 15 MILLION DOLLARS next year! So kiss music and art goodbye for the little kids as well!

    PPS-Does this proposed ordinance include trains or fireworks?

  • 6 HORSEFANG // Feb 16, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Although if it goes poorly we can always run some long extension cords, set up AT the pavillion,




    and then tomorrow when you are at Bodo’s you will be reading the DAILY REGRESS with a headline like “ATONAL RIOT QUELLED IN THE NAME OF BEDROOM COMMUNITIES EVERYWHERE”

  • 7 James // Feb 16, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    it sounds like City Council at least understands that a citywide 55 dB restriction is insanely arbitrary, which is a huge relief. I’m confident they’re at least going to look into it further before passing an insanely stupid and ill-informed bit of legislation; (as of the meeting, the bill had already been amended to apply to only to residential-commercial zoned districts at certain times of night, and with any luck they’ll address the decibel concern before this thing is passed.)

  • 8 gary // Feb 17, 2010 at 12:38 am

    what really bugged me at the meeting was the arbitrary, “let’s not knock it down to something extremely low like 55, how about…uh….60?” as if 5 (five!) dBs really makes a difference. i dont know james, i’m not as hopeful as you.

  • 9 Kyle W. // Feb 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I played a CD release show behind a house on JPA in May, and though I had spent days delivering flyers to neighbors telling them exactly when the concert would be (and that it would be over by 11 pm, and the noise would be kept low), a cop showed up with his dB meter. He stood up on the hill (BEHIND and 100 feet from the speakers) and showed the reading on the meter to be at 80 dB, which was a violation of code.

    I noticed at that time that whenever he spoke, the meter jumped up louder than the background music…which was curious. Fortunately, he was nice and told me that as long as we had the show over by 11, he would leave and the next officer wouldn’t be on patrol until 11:15. That made me realize two things: 1) That some cops are actually fair and understanding, while others enjoy and exploit the fact that laws are unforgiving, and 2) that the noise ordinance laws are complete and utter rubbish.

    Charlottesville’s legislature is severely lacking a broader view of what this place is on many levels. It is so caught up with being a trendy, urbane center for fine arts appreciation that it has no perspective on what this city means to other people; namely, that people travel considerable distances to come here and enjoy the music scene. If they think that a music scene consists of JPJ and the Pavilion, then they’re frighteningly misinformed—a music scene thrives on roots, including everything from house shows to mid-sized venues. I have played shows all up and down the east coast, into Canada, and even as far north as Canada musicians mention Charlottesville as a must-hit spot on their tours; along with cities such as Manhattan, Philadelphia, and DC. That MEANS something. Charlottesville’s more rootsy music scene may not feel completely understandable or comfortable to those in the council, but it is obviously one of (if not the greatest) of our city’s assets. It’s such a shame that someone proposing laws is so indignant that they’ll perpetually refuse to see that.

    James, I agree that it’s positive that the city acknowledges the arbitrariness of 55 dB. I’m also less hopeful, though… but screw it, hope is one thing. All we can do is make efforts. We have to fight for things we care about.

  • 10 Kimber Hawkey // Feb 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Correction for those who choose to be informed:
    the Belmont Neighborhood IS NOT zoned primarily commercial.

    READ THE ZONING! “The intent of the Neighborhood Commercial Corridor district is to establish a zoning classification for the Fontaine and Belmont commercial areas that recognize their compact nature, their pedestrian orientation, and the small neighborhood nature of the businesses. This zoning district recognizes the areas as small town center type commercial areas and provides for the ability to develop on small lots with minimal parking dependent upon pedestrian access. The regulations recognize the character of the existing area and respect that they are neighborhood commercial districts located within established residential neighborhoods.”

    I come from a family of musicians, have a music background, and love music, but as a resident this situation is unjust to the residents.

    NONE OF YOU commenting here are residents being affected. Let us come and keep you and your families awake when you need to sleep and let us disturb your daily life on a continual basis. There are plenty of other venues for loud music elsewhere in the city. The restaurants in Belmont need to respect the neighborhood and have appropriate low-key acoustic music to accompany their dining experience.


  • 11 James // Feb 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    NONE OF YOU commenting here are residents being affected.

    Ms Hawkey-
    You’re presuming that none of us is a Belmont resident — actually, I’m fairly certain you and I live on the same street. Furthermore, if the City Council had passed its original version of this proposal, ALL of Charlottesville would have been negatively impacted.

    This debate is not just about the noise being made by BelRio. I sympathize with your complaints, and I’m sure it sucks to be kept awake at night by drunk yuppies and bad jazz music right next door.

    However, this issue is about a proposed ordinance that has/had the potential to negatively impact the entire city; enacting a citywide ban of all sounds +55 dB would have — if properly enforced, which it certainly has the potential to be — would have effectively shut down the vast majority of music being performed in this city, not to mention the vast majority of night-life culture as well (if they hadn’t appended it to apply only to amplified sounds.)

    There are other issues here which are larger than your personal annoyance with one particular venue. This is about making sure that City Council doesn’t pass a silly, unenforceable, and hugely harmful law that would have a huge negative impact on the entire city, because of the extremely vocal (and, in context, quite valid) complaints of a single resident.

    There is a way to resolve your personal disagreements with BelRio without passing a law that would shut down all non-mainstream music in Charlottesville. How about getting off your high horse and showing some “Respect” for the rest of the city?

    Thanks for your honest consideration of these matters.
    James Ford
    Nailgun Media

  • 12 James // Feb 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    does anyone know when the next City Council meeting is happening? (i.e., the one on which they’ll actually pass / reject the modified proposal?) I’ve been home sick in bed all week so I’m completely out of the loop. maybe it’s happened already?