At its April 8 meeting, the Leesburg Town Council continued to discuss potential new noise ordinances – this time with a baseline to judge.
Prior to the meeting, Town Council and members of the public sat at the town lawn, listening to different types of music at various sound levels, played by local musician Nathaniel Davis. Spectators were invited to walk different distances to compare the volume.
The demonstration, put on by Assistant Town Manager Scott Parker, is just the latest portion of the new noise regulations designed to curb the noise residents must hear from neighboring businesses.
Last modified in 2009, today's current ordinance judges sound based on a “per se” or “plainly audible.”
The staff's new proposal offers using sound monitoring equipment to measure the decibel level from businesses in residential areas. Measured from 50 feet between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., noise should not be greater than 70 decibels, the equivalent of noise from road traffic or a hair dryer 1 meter from your ear. Between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., that level drops to 55 decibels, similar to a low-droning television 1 meter away or a vacuum cleaner at 10 meters. A plainly audible rule would still be maintained as well.
The new proposal did not address a decibel limit in commercial areas deep enough to not affect residential areas; rather, businesses would have noise restrictions lifted from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
At the meeting, Parker clarified that these regulations would not apply to special events.
“There is no intent to apply it to Acoustic on the Green, parades, the Fourth of July or any other town events,” Parker explained.
The move has already received mixed reviews.
Teri Simonds, a Leesburg resident who lives a half-mile from MacDowell's Brew Kitchen in Leesburg once again spoke at the Town Council meeting.
“I live half a mile away from MacDowell's. During the summer, we can hear all the music, including the lyrics, from inside our house with the AC on. If we go outside, it sounds like the band is playing in our backyard,” Simonds said. “I don't think live, outdoor music is necessary for a vibrant downtown.”
But other people, including two local musicians, disagreed.
"The economic success of the town is driven by businesses and music is part of those businesses,” said Davis, the musician who performed before the meeting. "There are thousands of people looking to this council to keep music alive in what is called the arts district."
Payson Van Orden, another local musician, said he supported the move toward a more objective, decibel-based measurement, but urged the Town Council to consider not setting the volume too low.
“I'd like to see them be a little higher but we'll deal with what we've got and go with it from there,” Van Orden said.
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