Aug 17, 2007

Citizen Complaints: Edgefield ConcertsToo Loud?

I've received a few complaints about too-loud concerts at McMenamins Edgefield. So have other Troutdale city councilors. I can attest to the loudness of these concerts. We live five miles away and we can often hear the music from our backyard.

Noise complaints from an outdoor venue such as McMenamins are not uncommon. From Texas, check out this Austin Chronicle article about that city's struggle with the concert noise issue. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"While the latest debate over how loud live music in Austin can be before it infringes on the rights of property owners has been fraught with spin control, crisis management, and name-calling, it boils down to three distinct agendas: downtown residents and hotels upset with noise disruptions from live music; venue operators looking to present shows at a volume that pleases both artists and audience; and a local police department that maintains they're caught in the middle by a current noise ordinance that's unenforceable. At the heart of it all lies the future of downtown Austin."

Troutdale's current noise ordinance is pretty generic. Here's the essential piece of our noise ordinance:

8.24.035 Unreasonable noises prohibited.

No person shall make, assist in making, permit or allow to continue any unreasonable noise in the city. A noise is unreasonable when the noise is made between the hours of ten p.m. and seven a.m.; the noise is plainly audible within a noise sensitive unit that is not the source of the noise; and the noise is abnormally high or low. (Ord. 750 § 6 Att. E (part), 2004)

Right now, any unreasonable noise is ok, as long as it occurs between 7am and 10pm. What are the prohibited unreasonable noises? The next part of the noise code spells it out:

8.24.040 Specific noises prohibited.

A. The following acts are presumed unreasonable noises in violation of this chapter:
1. The use, operation or playing of any radio, television, phonograph, compact disc player, tape player, loudspeaker, musical instrument, or other similar machine or device that is used for the production of noise between the hours of ten p.m. and seven a.m. when the noise is plainly audible within a noise sensitive unit that is not the source of the noise;
2. The loading, unloading, opening, closing or other handling of boxes, crates, containers, building materials, or similar objects between the hours of ten p.m. and seven a.m. when the noise is plainly audible within a noise sensitive unit that is not the source of the noise;
3. The sounding of any horn or signaling device on any automobile, motorcycle or other vehicle, except as a danger signal;
4. The use of any automobile, motorcycle or other kind of vehicle in a manner that creates loud grating, grinding, revving, rattling or other similar noise;
5. The use of exhaust brakes, except when used in an emergency to stop or slow a vehicle so as to avoid a collision;
6. The discharging of exhaust from any steam engine, stationary internal combustion engine, motor boat, motorcycle or motor vehicle except through a muffler or other device which will effectively prevent loud or explosive noises;
7. The making of, or assisting with the making of, noise on a public beach or in a public park when the noise is plainly audible within a noise sensitive unit that is not the source of the noise and is not authorized pursuant to a permit;
8. The use of construction, street work, street repair, drilling or demolition tools or equipment during the following hours: Monday through Friday before seven a.m. or after nine p.m., Saturdays before eight a.m. or after seven p.m. and Sundays before ten a.m. or after seven p.m.;
9. The use of domestic power tools during the hours of ten p.m. and seven a.m.;
10. Noise created by animals when it violates the standards adopted by Multnomah County in Chapter 13 of the Multnomah County Code. See Chapter 6.04 of the Troutdale Municipal Code.
B. The enumeration of unreasonable noises in subsection A of this section shall not limit the city from investigating and declaring other noises unreasonable as provided for in Section 8.24.035 of this chapter. (Ord. 750 § 6 Att. E (part), 2004)

So there you have it. According to our city code, there's nothing wrong with extremely loud concerts at McMenamins Edgefield between 7am and 10pm. But what about the residences who literally live next door to Edgfield? Is it ok for them to be subjected to this excessive, but legal concert noise? Methinks probably not.

So what's the solution? We could make our noise ordinance more restrictive. We could ban loud concerts. We could keep the noise ordinance as is. Or some solution in between these basic options.

What do I think? We need to refine our noise ordinance, but in a way that protects the interests of the residential neighbors, Edgefield, and the city. An impossible task, perhaps? My solution would be as follows: before next summer's concert season, the city should require that McMenamin's representatives get together with their residential neighbors near Edgefield. Both sides must come to a satisfactory agreement regarding noise levels, durations, and times before any concerts are permitted.

The city should only become involved if the parties cannot come to agreement. At that point, the decision making would turn political, which I fear would result in no one being satisfied. If it comes to that, the city council could change its noise ordinance into something much more restrictive and technical, with limits on decibel levels at certain ranges and certain distances, with expensive monitoring equipment, staff time, fines for violators, the works. I'd hate to see it come to that.

I have witnessed another issue regarding the increasingly popular Edgefield concerts: The massive traffic jams and gridlock on NE Halsey before and after the concerts. Halsey is a two-lane road at Edgefield. If there were a medical emergency, fire, or other catastrophe in the area during the concert traffic gridlock, how would police/fire or other first responders get there? Fire trucks don't travel down roadside ditches very well. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

I only know the traffic situation from what I've personally seen. Perhaps there is a traffic management plan in place, I don't know. I'll check with city staff on this and then discuss it further here.

7 comments:

Diane said...

There has to be a way to get to a workable solution. Personally, I'd hate to live nearby, and one of the reasons I'd never even begin to consider living near a county fairgrounds or the like.

Not only could you not watch a TV show, listen to a CD, read or have a reasonable conversation at a reasonable volume level, the potential for hearing loss for those living closest is definitely a factor.

k.r. bents said...

Last night's, 8/22, concert ended at 9:40, and it was excessively-loud, no question about it. Yes, the ordinance should be revised: closing time should be 9, not 10 p.m., and 2-3 hour afternoon practice sessions should, too, be restricted to 97 decibels, or less. Most of us living within 200-300 yards of the "noise" are unable even to think about sleep during the concerts, and some of us work nights, so even the afternoon practices are disruptive. To date, Mr. Simcoe of McM's has offered nothing.

Bill Flynn said...

My family lives in a house overlooking the outdoor concert facility. Most of the concerts are not very loud and few disturb us. In fact, many are indeed quite pleasant.

However, there have been several, including the one last night, which exceeded any reasonable person's definition of 'Too Loud.' I've discussed the noise situation with DJ Simcoe, the concert manager at Edgefield, and he kindly explained to me via email that the noise level is up to each band to determine for themselves and that Edgefield has nothing to do with sound levels. He suggested neighbors contact city officials regarding excessive noise.

Now I understand why. The city has NO law against excessive noise from 7am to 10pm and Edgefield obviously knows this. The nearby homeowners have asked Edgefield many times to turn down the volume and we've been soundly and 100% ignored each time because they know they can have the noise as loud as they want.

Edgefield is clearly not interested in a good neighbor policy. Therefore the city must intervene. Before the start of next summer's concert series, Troutdale needs to put some common sense into it's noise ordnance.

It can't be that difficult to write and pass a reasonable noise ordnance. Other cities across America have certainly dealt with this type of situation. Let's see what's been done elsewhere and make it happen here.

Jen said...

This is like people who live in an airport flight path complaining about noise from airplanes.

Edgefield has been there for a long time. Shouldn't it be a prospective resident's responsibility to check out the surrounding area before moving in?

Please note: growing up, I lived a short distance from a popular outdoor concert venue. Depending on weather conditions, concerts could be heard in our yard *regardless* of the actual sound volume in the venue.

In short, chill out Troutdale. ;)

Troutdale Councilor Canfield said...

Jen,

Personally, I tend to agree with you. It is an individual's responsibility to check out the characteristics of a neighborhood before they move in.

Having said that, I also believe that the residents near Edgefield are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their property just as much as McMenamins is entitled to use their property for concerts.

And there's the conflict. Consider this, too: prolonged exposure to sound levels above 85 dB can impair one’s hearing; the greater the level and longer the exposure the greater the risk. Different activities and devices generate different levels of noise. For example, a rock music concert can run in the 110 dB range or higher; a jet takeoff, 140 dB; large firecrackers, 150 dB; and a farm tractor, 100 dB. Even rush-hour traffic can hit 90 dB or more. Pressure waves from elevated levels of such noise permanently destroy specialized cells in the inner ear, resulting in diminished hearing ability. Environmental noise can disturb sleep, distract attention, and create anxiety.

I wonder exactly how loud these concerts are if you're at one of the closest residences. We need to find out, and look at this from na objective point of view.

So although I agree that a sort of "NIMBY"-ism is in play here, It's time that Edgefield and their neighbors come to a mutual agreement regarding noise levels and concert durations.

By the way, we live under the approach path to PDX, and we LOVE constant air traffic overhead. Especially in the summer, when we can see the "string of pearls" of airliner landing lights eastward. It's great to watch and listen to the fly overhead!

William said...

Yes, I agree with Jen and Councilor Canfield about the responsibility of a prospective homeowner to investigate thoroughly before buying a house.

We did. We knew Troutdale was in the PDX flight path. We love airplanes and enjoy watching them pass overhead. We also love trains and with energy depletion about to kick in, trains are an excellent way to mitigate the economic damage caused by higher energy costs.

We also knew McM's had outdoor concerts and we were advised that a McM representative had recently been on our street advising residents that the music would cease at 9pm. Free concerts from 6:30 to 9pm? We thought that sounded wonderful and we really enjoyed the outdoor concerts last summer.

But this summer the situation changed and chaged terribly for the worse. This summer concerts generally ended at 10pm rather than the agreed upon 9pm. Then the pre-concert noise started at 11:30am continuing until 5pm usually with recorded music. Sound testing, we were told. Then the volume went WAY up beyond any reasonable person's definition of neighborliness both for the concerts and the pre-concert 'testing.' There is now noplace to go inside our house without the walls shaking. McM's told us that if we didn't like it we need to let city officials know because there isn't anything they can do about it.

Well, after today's excessive noise experience, which started early this afternoon and is still going on, there is something we are going to do about it. Today, anyone living within a mile of Edgefield heard their response to Councilor Canfield's suggestion that McM's should discuss a common sense and neighborly approach. The message they sent was LOUD and clear.

Therefore, by the beginning of next summer, Troutdale must have an enforceable noise ordinance with teeth, much like so many other communities have in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

Still a huge problem. 'Sound Checks' starting at noon- now we get the added bonus of a spotlight in the parking lot that shines directly into the master bedroom window and doesn't go off until around 1 am. My fiance and I both work full time jobs and I am an Army Veteran with PTSD. Its not just a little noise- it completely shakes our walls and even with our tv and sound system all the way up- Edgefield Concerts still overpower. Its fruserating seeing the 'Troutdale needs to chill' attitude- we are productive adults in our 30s and there's a reason we dont live in a frat house ;)