New Orleans noise ordinance hearing canceled by City Council committee

January 17 2014 | Latest News

By | The Times-Picayune

A New Orleans City Council committee hearing scheduled to be held Friday on a proposed new sound ordinance was abruptly canceled late Thursday.

Housing and Human Needs Committee co-chairs Stacy Head and Kristin Gisleson Palmer issue the following joint statement:

The City Council has worked for five years to improve the city's sound ordinances. The lack of enforcement over time and of enforceable laws negatively impacts the quality of life in neighborhoods citywide and the health of musicians and employees, and also stymies development. At times, new businesses hoping to open music venues are subjected to onerous requirements through provisos or other means in order to assuage neighbors' reasonable fears that government will not enforce nuisance laws should those new businesses operate in a harmful manner.

In the fall of 2011, Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer engaged acoustician David Woolworth to conduct a thoughtful and comprehensive study of New Orleans sound ordinances and to work with many interest groups to propose rational changes in the City's laws. This resulted in a comprehensive report, which was released to the public in August 2013. It is now time to take the action step of turning this work into law. In December 2013, Councilmember Head drafted and the Council introduced a narrow amendment to the city's sound ordinance to focus on a subset of noise issues (brick and mortar structures), place the measurement location at the property line of emanation, and provide sound level allowances depending on area zoning classification. We'd like to thank the neighborhood groups, musicians, and citizens who helped us get to this point.

There has been much public consternation over the perceived intent and impact of the ordinance, and fear that the hard work and recommendations of the many constituency groups with Mr. Woolworth were not followed. In order to allay those fears, Mr. Woolworth has suggested, and we agree, that an even more limited focus on VCE only is appropriate. Mr. Woolworth and Councilmember Gisleson Palmer in particular, have worked closely with the French Quarter Management District to craft recommendations tailored to the VCE district.

These recommendations, including that the measurement should be taken at the property line of the source of emanation, along with a noise level threshold, will be the substance of an ordinance that will be presented in draft form at the next Housing and Human Needs Committee meeting on January 27, 2014. At that meeting we will also invite the Health Department to present the status of the hiring of environmental health officers who will have the primary charge of enforcing sound laws. Thereafter, we will conduct additional field tests with Mr. Woolworth and welcome public comment in order to inform the draft, and then the resulting ordinance will be formally introduced for first reading.

Therefore, the Special Housing and Human Needs Committee meeting set for tomorrow, January 17, 2014, will be cancelled, and the current ordinance will be withdrawn.

Finally, we assure the public that our work to create workable and reasonable laws that preserve our music culture and industry has not stalled, but will continue in earnest.