PDT Staff Writer
With Portsmouth City Council considering a new noise ordinance based on complaints about the sound produced by the musical acts appearing at the Columbia Music Arena, the owner of that facility, Lee Scott, appeared before Council Monday night to ask to be grandfathered in, if such an ordinance is enacted.
“If a new ordinance is going to be proposed or passed, I request that the Columbia be grandfathered out of this ordinance,” Scott said.
The point of contention is the lack of a roof over the concert area, allowing the sound to escape into the neighborhood.
“At this point I don’t think that we should be forced to go in debt $300,000 to put a dome on the building. We were forced to close down early every concert we had last year.”
Downtown businessman Terry Ockerman also spoke to Council and reminded them there is already a noise ordinance on the books that should be enforced. He showed Council a stack of surveys of residents and businesses in that area.
“There are some people saying, ‘do we need an ordinance?’ some of them just said, ‘yes we do,’” Ockerman said. “I thought we had a noise ordinance in effect. In my opinion we’ve had a noise ordinance in for a long time. The reason we’re going through this right now, in my opinion, is you’re just giving everybody the opportunity to say, ‘look, if you’re going to do business downtown, you need to do it right.”
Adding an extra wrinkle to the situation is the fact that Fourth Ward Councilman James Kalb is the manager, and, according to Scott, had been planning to purchase the Arena.
“You’re looking at making a decision, now based on what you have to read, and whoever sends you a chart or a graph or whatever. Last season I extended an invitation to not only all the Council members but all the elected officials and guests to come down and to see first hand what was being discussed as far as the noise problems,” Kalb said. “And the former Solicitor (Mike Jones) advised against that for some reason. But I’d like to extend that to this year. It looks like we’re going to have to do something about the noise ordinance before that time. And you’re looking to make a decision on a noise ordinance that’s basically information from what everybody got off the Internet, I haven’t printed it out yet, the noise study I think was 39 pages, that Mr. Ockerman, the chief complainant in this whole noise ordinance thing, had bought and paid for. So personally I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in it. It sounds like a lot of the same things we had up at the podium in the past complaining about the noise.”
Scott noted that this problem has been at a standstill.
“Mr. Kalb was cited for having a noise violation. It was supposed to have been worked out multiple times; it never happened,” Scott said.
If enacted, the rough draft would carry with it a maximum permissible dB level, set by time of day and according to the zoning status of the locations. The decibel levels would be based on “A-Weighted Decibel Level (dBA),” which means the decibel level reading is corrected using frequency weighting corresponding approximately to the 40 dB equal loudness curve, that is to say, the human ear’s response to low to medium sound levels. It is by far the most commonly applied frequency weighting and is used for all levels of sound.
Allowable levels for Table 2 Maximum permissible A-Scale Fast Time-Weighting Decibel Level LAFmax would be 85 dBA from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; 80 dBA from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.; 70 dBA from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m., and 65 dBA from 2 a.m. until 7 a.m.
“I guess I’m just not real happy that people want to make rules to go back and do something wrong,” Scott said. “I did nothing wrong. I shouldn’t be forced to pay. We did everything according to plans, even exceeding. I don’t want to be a bad neighbor to my neighbors down there.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.