Noise ordinance deferred for more ironing out of details

Restriction on number of annual events still in force

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

The Big Ticket, a music festival held at Metropolitan Park last month, was the last large-scale concert scheduled before a proposed new ordinance – designed to limit noise levels that vibrate the St. Nicholas and South Shores neighborhoods – is presented to City Council.

The ordinance may be just the ticket concert promoters and residents can agree on.

Only one day after the Dec. 8 all-day mega-concert event, the Metropolitan Park Ad Hoc Committee met to discuss the draft ordinance that outlines ways for concert promoters to keep their robust sound in check.

Ginny Myrick, a St. Nicholas resident and member of the ad hoc committee, expects the ordinance to go before City Council this month. While Myrick thought the noise from The Big Ticket was more acceptable than some of the other concerts held at the riverfront park, the vibrations from the bass were still problematic for neighborhood residents.
“The sound level was tolerable, but the bass is still the overriding problem and it gets more intense as the headliners come to the stage later in the evening,” explains Myrick.
For The Big Ticket, “later in the evening” went past 10 p.m. at the Sunday night concert.

District 4 Councilman Don Redman, who represents the neighborhoods that seem to be the most vocal about the booming music, has heard from frustrated residents about everything from shaking houses to profane language.

“A big issue with the noise is the vibrating bass. It shakes the windows in people’s houses hour after hour,” Redman explained. “It upsets people.” Another big issue is the foul language that comes across the river into people’s living rooms.”

Council President Bill Gulliford suggested at the December Metropolitan Park Ad Hoc Committee meeting that promoters financially reward bands for staying within sound limits and away from vulgarity. He also asked the Office of General Counsel to offer an opinion on ways to restrict profane language.

The rock concert, which featured Stone Temple Pilots as its headliner, attracted a huge crowd, including Marie Fazio, a San Marco resident and junior at Bishop Kenny High School. She has attended several big concert events at Metropolitan Park and thinks the venue is a huge attraction, but also understands neighborhood concerns.

“The event draws a young crowd. It invigorates the city,” Fazio said. “I completely understand, though, why the neighborhood is complaining about the bands.  What they are playing is not child-appropriate. But it’s such a good place to have a concert. It’s beautiful on the river and so much fun.”

Seeking compromise between concert promoters and neighborhood residents has been a long and complicated process involving sound studies, debate on decibel levels, and divergent views on the park’s intended use. At issue now is how to handle fines for ordinance violations.

“We are a full year later from when we started. I thought it was all ironed out. I thought we were there. But then the legislation was deferred and sent back to the committee,” Redman explained. “I think some council members had a fear that it would run events out of town.”

Gulliford expressed concern that regardless of what is worked out between promoters and neighborhood residents, it will not resolve the need for an outdoor amphitheater that isn’t restricted by the number of events it can host.

Paid ticketed events in Metropolitan Park are limited to 12 per year by the National Park Service, which provided funds to establish the park and intended it to be used by Jacksonville residents as a place to enjoy free access to the river.

The draft legislation will outline specific guidelines for concert promoters that are intended to appease nearby residents for such events.

While no sound testing was done at the December concert, Redman said no one called him with complaints, but the Soul Food Festival held the month prior was a different story.
“Residents thought the noise wasn’t as bad as it was two weeks ago,” Redman said referring to complaints he heard about the late November Soul Food Festival, which is put on by different promoters than The Big Ticket.

The Big Ticket promoters directed speakers away from the neighborhood.
“These promoters [for The Big Ticket] really try to work with us on honoring the restrictions,” Redman explained. “They didn’t get so rowdy.”

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