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Noise Ordinance Back Before City Council Wednesday

The latest version of proposed changes to Charlotte's noise ordinance has drawn a more muted response from bar owners and musicians. That's partly because critics say they haven't had time to fully digest the changes. But it's also because the city has attempted to address many concerns raised by the local music scene - and in some cases allow louder music than they initially requested. Charlotte city attorneys haven't been shy about admitting they got it wrong the first time. Their latest attempt at revising the noise ordinance draws heavily on the example set by Austin, Texas, which has a thriving music scene. That's precisely what local bar owners and musicians urged the city to do. The latest plan is to let Charlotte businesses have noise levels as high as 85 decibels until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on the weekend. Senior Deputy City Attorney Bob Hagemann says 85 decibels is what Austin, Texas uses as a limit. "We also ran some internal tests," adds Hagemann. "It has yet to be determined whether or not the council and the council's committee think 85 is the right number for Charlotte, but that's what's on the table right now." Eighty-five decibels is actually higher than the 70 decibel recommendation of a local group called Save Charlotte Music. Charlotte's current noise ordinance - which hasn't been updated in more than 20 years - sets a limit of 60 decibels and requires the measurement be taken within the property limit of the person complaining about the noise. That has proven difficult to enforce. Hagemann says the city now proposes taking the measurement at the property line of the noise-making business. He adds the ordinance will only be enforced when neighbors complain. "We do not want to burden businesses that are not causing a problem," says Hagemann. "We want to design a system that only identifies real problems, provides an opportunity for creative solutions to solve the problem. And only when a solution can't be found or a business is uncooperative would we take more serious enforcement action." Uncooperative businesses could face fines in excess of $1,000 and be prohibited from amplifying music outdoors for one year. The city council's Community Safety Committee will review the noise ordinance proposal Wednesday, April 20 at 2 p.m. View agenda for the meeting.