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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Are noise curfews really that rare?

The tweet by The Free Press reporter read: You know how you could make downtown #ldnont really great? Ban young people. And fun. This is a great first step:

And just what promised to kill all fun in downtown London and chase young people from the core? I followed the link and learned a civic committee responding to complaints from downtown residents voted to keep London's 11 p.m noise curfew for downtown festivals.

Now, there were some minor modifications. The committee agreed to allow the existing 90-decibel volume limit to be exceeded by 3 decibels for up to 10 seconds at a time to allow for musical crescendos. And there is now a 15 minutes grace period after the 11 p.m. curfew is passed. (This is actually rather generous.)

This will keep young people from going downtown? Have young people changed that much since I was young. Heck, I recall noise curfews and they were not game killers in the '60s. That said, I do have a great memory of the Amboy Dukes, with Ted Nugent leading the assault, loudly breaking the sound barrier while playing at a teen night club in Windsor, Ontario.

The Motor City Madman played well past curfew, the police were called but The Nuge wasn't intimidated. The music didn't stop until the wildman put his guitar through the wall at the back of the stage. Even that violent move didn't stop the music. Nugent continued loudly grinding his broken guitar against the jagged edges of the smashed drywall until he had broken every amplified string. Then, he strutted off the stage.

So, do any other cities or towns have noise curfews? I decided to do a Google search.

  • The first hit told me in Vancouver, B.C., the PNE (Pacific National Exposition) will no longer book electronica concerts into the Forum. No concerts. No noise. No time period exempt.
  • Next, I learned that Rock the Garden 2012 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN, was restricted by a 10PM noise curfew. The last group obeyed the curfew by not playing an encore. They played right up to 10PM and wound up their set.
  • In Houston, TX, the city is considering revisions to its noise ordinance. Presently they bylaw allows up to 65 decibels during the day and 58 at night in residential areas. Non-residential areas are allowed 68 decibels at all times. Businesses or individuals with a permit are allowed 75 decibels from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday – and Friday till 11 p.m. Under the proposed revisions, critics warn someone could potentially end the music and dancing at the annual Greek Festival with a single phone call. A downtown resident could stop a world-touring music artist at International Festival despite the fact that they have a sound permit issued by the City. Historic venues that have hosted many touring musical acts could be a thing of the past. Local musicians would be left with few if any places to perform.
  • Even Seattle, WA, the home of grunge, limits outdoor concerts to a decibel level of 95 dB, lasting up to one minute as measured fifty feet from the source. Seattle, a creative city, according to Richard Florida, a city to be emulated according to The London Free Press, seems almost in sync with London.

An interesting thing about the Houston ordinance is that no initial complaint or evidence (decibel meter reading) is required before a ticket may be written. It is a judgment call left to an officer's discretion.

With over 53 million hits, I read a few more, and came to the conclusion that the London noise restrictions are not all that unusual.

What I don't understand is the hostility shown to those who have lived in the core area for years and are complaining about the noise pollution. The core is their home. They have a right to complain about a real threat to their enjoyment of their home. And rock music played at a level to rattle one's windows at midnight, many would agree, is a problem. These people spend 365 days, and nights, living in the core.

When I lived on Wilson Avenue, right across the river from Harris Park, my attitude would have been, "Hey, I live here. You don't. You, Mr. Drummer, are a guest in my neighbourhood. If you don't like the rules, take your music and go. Maybe you can find a park in your neighbourhood. Go and hold the concert there. Say, isn't Weldon Park in Arva?"

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