Bend-area musicians, venues upset by noise rules

City's continued balancing act: When is music noise?

BEND, Ore. - The Bend City Council got a fairly respectful earful - but an earful nonetheless -- Wednesday night about the impact of this summer's revisions to the city's noise ordinance from critics who say it's costing them money, the city business and live music, and giving those who complain too much power.

Drew Kelleher said the ordinance that imposes decibel limits, especially after 10 p.m., is similar to those used in retirement communities, not "growth towns" like Boulder or Austin that want a thriving music scene and the economic boost it generates..

Two groups, the Central Oregon Music and Arts Coalition and Bend Residents for a Sensible Noise Ordinance, have been formed in the wake of the ordinance, which bans outdoor amplified sound between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. but exempted the Les Schwab Amphitheater from some aspects, such as daytime noise limits. (That also has bothered some of the smaller venues who feel the rules should be the same for everyone.)

Councilor Mark Capell said the city must balance the issues raised by the musicians and venues with residents "who come to us saying their couldn't sleep in their home." He and colleague Tom Greene urged those with issues to bring specific proposals for changes to a work session on Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at which councilors will review how the revised ordinance worked in its first summer season.

Wesley Ladd, a former Prineville Hotshot who with his wife created the Horned Hand as a hub for local music and art, said he'd worked with Bend police Community Liaison Steve Esseltyn early on and "agreed with a lot of the changes," aimed at making the rules more clear. But he also said he'd been shut down twice and other times, police said there was no noise problem. He also said that the "severity of the fines" -- $750 for the first offense and rising fast after that -- is "pretty insane."

Ladd noted that Player's Bar and Grill is not doing live shows any more and noted that the Roots Music Festival was canceled due to the issues related to the Century Center.

 "People outside (the area) know and they are not sending artists to us," he said.

Singer/songwriter Jason Schweitzer urged the city police to make use of its new $650 decibel meters to make sure complaints are targeting places that are causing the issues.

He and a few others said multiple complaints from the same people should lead to "repercussions" similar to false alarms or false police complaints.

Neighbors got the city to agree to 45-day advance notice for noise permits, but Schweitzer said many music groups become available on much shorter notice, making that requirement unworkable.

Council candidate Ron Boozell said to him, "the law seems to be punitive, based on where no actual damage has been done or proved." He called the enforcement of the present code "a waste of police resources" that hurts the artist community.

"Some complaints can be resolved without penalty or financial pain," Boozell said -- and in a city, with trains whistling and loud trucks at night, "some can't be resolved at all."

Such nighttime noises "are part of living in the city," he said. "We need to accept that fact."

"Some people are not reasonable," Boozell said, and their complaints should be treated as "nuisance calls."

In fact, Boozell said that in his opinion, "The city should consider having no noise ordinance at all."

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