PDT Staff Writer
Several area residents and business operators turned out for Monday’s Portsmouth City Council meeting to complain about the noise they say has been emanating from the recently opened Columbia Music Arena at 832 Gallia Street in Portsmouth.
When the facility reopened with rock and country acts performing, a section of the roof was left open, which residents say allows the sound to amplify throughout the neighborhood.
“My question would be, taking it from a closed to open air, if there was any research done,” Terry Ockerman said. “Maybe there was tons of research, I really don’t know.”
Ockerman gave each member of City Council a stack of online information on the subject.
“If you Google ‘amplified noise,’ there is probably 400 articles about the issues going back ten years,” Ockerman said. “I don’t know if that was looked at. I don’t know if there was any research done. But when you’re firing up a concert, I’m told you can hear it in the east end. I’m told you can’t do a conference call in the National City (PNC) building.”
Ockerman cited the “Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act of 1993,” as an act that deals with noise levels.
Fourth Ward City Councilman Jim Kalb, who is also one of those involved in operating the Columbia Music Arena said there is no ordinance that deals with specifics when it comes to noise problems.
“There is no law concerning decibels or any kind of noise or anything on the books,” Kalb said. “I think it is 509.09, and it doesn’t say anything about the decibel level.”
City Ordinance 509.09 reads in part: “The use or operation, or permitting the placement, use or operation of any radio receiving set, musical instrument, phonograph, loud-speaker, sound amplifier or other machine or device for the production or reproduction of sound which is cast upon the public streets for the purpose of commercial advertising or attracting the attention of the public to any building or structure.” However, in the segment titled, “Radios, phonographs, etc.” where it addresses CD players, cassette tape players, phonographs, instruments, and other sound-producing devices, it ends with - “This section shall be waived for those persons who have obtained a permit through the Police Department for organized functions during hours listed on the permit.”
“All I want to do is ask you if you had to live there, which I have for 10 years. I have been in business in that two block radius for 22 years,” Sharma Brown said. “I have raised my son there. I’ve never let my son, who is 19, boom his music. To me it is no different. To me it’s common courtesy. It’s no different from me going over to the apartment of my college student neighbor at two o’clock in the morning and telling him to turn the music down.”
Brown reflected back to the night of the venue’s first concert.
“The first night there (Columbia) at 11:30 (p.m.) at night, it was so loud I called two city councilmen and got them out of bed,” Brown said. “I told them, ‘I can’t go to sleep because of the music hall.’ I’m just asking for common courtesy.”
Brown said she has always been in favor of new businesses in the downtown area, but wants to be considered before such venues open. She said the concert sound overrode her television. “Right’s right and wrong’s wrong. If the music hall is going to bring people downtown, okay, just control the sound.”
“There are 600 voters in that ward alone,” Brown said. “And they are told by (Police) dispatch that it’s not residential.”
Mike Fitch said there are people who live in the area who can’t use their air conditioners to override the sound because they have to make a decision as to whether they will run their air conditioners or buy their medicine.
Lee Scott, the owner of the Columbia Music Arena said he had obtained all necessary permits before beginning the building process.
“Yes we do. Not only that, but our Building Plans Examiner Mr. Asabrook is the one who actually drew up our original plans for it,” Scott said. “I don’t see where we violated any laws whatsoever or that we are violating any.”
Scott said some of the people complaining - “are doing it for personal animosity. We were told three days before we turned our sound system on that they were going to make complaints against us. I think we are totally within our rights, and we are going to continue to operate as our plans say we can.”
Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham said he received several phone calls last Saturday complaining about the noise from the concert.
“My response was - ‘we have a noise ordinance, call the police,’ and the answer that I was given was that they did, and they (dispatch) was telling everyone to call the Mayor’s office,” Basham said. “So I called dispatch just to see if it was true, and that was pretty much the statement - they were not sure how to enforce it.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or email@example.com.