Councilman proposes decibal level limitations

July 23, 2012


PDT Staff Writer

First Ward Portsmouth City Councilman Kevin Johnson has put numbers to a proposed ordinance that would limit the noise produced by concerts at the Columbia Music Arena in downtown Portsmouth.

After complaints came forth at a recent City Council meeting that because of the open roof, the concerts at the newly built facility were disturbing the peace of people living in that neighborhood, Johnson said he researched the noise ordinances from other cities and found the one currently in operation in Westerville, Ohio. Basing the ordinance on Westerville’s current ordinance, Johnson has proposed decibel levels be set per time of night.

“Evening” is defined as 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. during a weekend or any day before a legal holiday; and from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. during any weekday that is not the day before a legal holiday.

“Nighttime” is defined as from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. during a weekend or any day before a legal holiday; and from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. during any weekday that is not the day before a legal holiday.

“A-weighted sound level” means a measure of sound that has been mathematically adjusted to approximate the sensitivity of human hearing to different frequencies. A-weighted sound level is measured in A-weighted decibels. (dB)

“Electronically amplified sound” means any sound which has been amplified, enlarged, extended, manipulated, or produced by any electronic process or means, e.g., loud speaker, loud speaker system, public address system, sound amplification equipment, or any such similar device.

According to the ordinance, during “evening” hours, the decibel Lmax, which means the maximum sound level equals or exceeds the applicable Lmax criterion or maximum level of decibels would be 70, while the Leq, the equivalent continuous sound level would be 55 decibels, at the conclusion of any continuous ten-minute period. During nighttime hours those numbers would be 65 and 50.

If passed, the ordinance would carry a criminal prosecution component with the first violation resulting in a minor misdemeanor, and any subsequent violations being fourth degree misdemeanors.

It will also carry a civil action component.

“An action for injunctive relief may be brought by the City of Portsmouth in a court of competent jurisdiction against any person who has violated, and is reasonably likely to violate again, any provision of this chapter. The City may seek injunctive relief forbidding violations of the decibel limits in this chapter, but shall not seek relief preventing anyone from creating, playing, reproducing, furnishing, or transmitting electronically amplified sound, or from planning, promoting, scheduling or hosting any event that creates, plays, reproduces, furnishes, or transmits electronically amplified sound,” and “Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall be liable for the actual attorneys’ fees, expenses (including expert witness fees), and costs of suit incurred in establishing that violation in a civil action.”

Johnson is asking for the ordinance to be placed on the Mayor’s Conference Agenda at the next City Council meeting. He said the ordinance would take effect one year after passage by Portsmouth City Council.

The owner of the venue, Lee Scott, last week expressed his displeasure with the recent attempt to change the law after the license had been granted.

“If they had said it before I would have built it to comply with what they said,” Scott said. “I came up with an idea — I put my money, my work, I put my life into it one more time, against all odds. It is open one more time. And I will never walk away — and I will never let them shut me down. I will take any legal action necessary. I hate filing lawsuits. I have done it twice. They get thrown out. They have no cause to throw them out. We have no real government in this city that will do anything by the books. They do it the way they want to do it. They bend it. They manipulate it.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heafrtlandpublications.com