It is no major surprise that when a city becomes “hot,” investors/businesses (typically out of state) begin looking to locate with little to no interest about the impact this may have on the people who live there.
What is surprising: In 2020, one of the original downtown businesses helped by Julian Price to rejuvenate downtown Asheville, The Orange Peel, decided to open an “outdoor venue” called Rabbit Rabbit. It is in the center of a heavily occupied residential area.
For many of us who live in this area, this venue has made life unbearable due to the noise pollution (a form of air pollution) from this business. I have been informed this venue sought and received a permit to exceed noise levels. They are allowed to have a noise reading of 85 dBA (A-weighted decibels). The World Health Organization recommends decibel readings of 65 dBAs as noise pollution and 70 dBAs or less to prevent hearing loss. According to the EPA, WHO and other health organizations, in addition to hearing loss, noise pollution has also been associated with stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, respiratory agitation, anxiety, depression, irritability, the inability to concentrate, sleeplessness, loss of productivity and communication issues.
I am uncertain if, as part of the excess noise approval process, input was sought by the community impacted by this venue. No one I know was notified concerning the application or asked to provide feedback on the impact it may have these past three years. I have filed complaints regarding the noise, which results in a phone call letting me know they have not exceeded their noise variance — at street level.
As a longtime downtown resident, I must leave my home and impose on friends each time this venue has a concert because of the noise in my home. I can’t be in my home and watch television, listen to music or even have friends over the days they have concerts. During the summer and fall, I have to leave my home between one and two times a week. The week of June 12, I had to leave my home three nights.
I have read a good deal about Julian Price. According to one of the articles I read, he “envisioned a livable community,” a community of businesses and downtown residences supporting each other. I’m not feeling very supported by this local business.
— Mickey Randolph
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted The Orange Peel and the city of Asheville with the letter writer’s points. We received the following response from venue spokesperson Liz Tallent, which said in part: “Rabbit Rabbit is operated by longtime local businesses Orange Peel Events and Asheville Pizza & Brewing. We’re proud to have invested in our arts community, and in 2.5 years, our concerts have brought joy, connection and stress relief to 150,000 music lovers, mostly WNC locals. We employ 100-plus event professionals at a living wage.
“We worked closely with city officials and neighbor coalitions throughout the negotiations for the 2020 sound ordinance and have never had a violation. We have invested in improvements and sound equipment to minimize sound bleed, and we monitor levels constantly. Our concerts’ volume levels usually measure under 75 dBA at nearest residences, which is comparable to a toilet flushing or passing traffic. We voluntarily end shows by 10 p.m., an hour earlier than weekend requirements.
“In keeping with our sound permit, we may host 30 concerts maximum annually. Considering the history of downtown being home to festivals, entertainment, a baseball stadium and nightlife, this doesn’t seem an unreasonable impact.”
Xpress also received a response from city spokesperson Kim Miller, which said in part: “Rabbit Rabbit is located in the city’s central business district, which allows a mix of different land uses. Rabbit Rabbit is one of the few performance venues in our city that has applied for and met the requirements for a sound exceedance permit.
“The city of Asheville staff conducted a robust community engagement effort as part of the recent update of the noise ordinance.
“For individual sound exceedance permits, such as Rabbit Rabbit, the applicant is required to provide notice to properties located within 500 feet of the venue.
“In 2023, Rabbit Rabbit started their season with a newly constructed stage enclosure. Development Services Department staff took sound measurements from the residential apartment building on Ashland Avenue behind the venue, the location that traditionally experienced the highest decibel levels. Decibels measured 71.3 dBA at the highest level.
“From January to July 2023, staff has only received one noise complaint for Rabbit Rabbit. If you are experiencing a noise issue, please contact the city.”