Venue’s noise pollution makes life unbearable

Graphic by Lori Deaton

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.”


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13 thoughts on “Letter: 
Venue’s noise pollution makes life unbearable

  1. Pierce

    ” 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. ” Define long term? Move outside the major hub for peace. Your million dollar property will take you far!

  2. Bright

    “Locals get shafted by tourism industry…”. Granted the venue has a “right” to noise pollute the area to the benefit of happy bucks. The sad part is the dismal caliber of the so-called “music.” But, hey, drunks will clap for anything.

    • Prop Joe

      Many great sellout shows at Rabbitt Rabbit and Salvage Station. Both are great venues and offer a way to experience live music that was lacking in Asheville a few years ago. Looking forward to seeing Willie Nelson in a few months. Does one need to be drunk to clap for Willie? Spoiler – No

  3. T100

    Try some Howard Leight Max foam ear plugs .. I wear them 100% of the time when riding my motorcycle or flying.

  4. indy499

    Tallent’s nose must really be growing. I wonder if she actually is starting to believe the lies she spews. The noise is unbearable. She and her bribed council croney Roney concocted this nonsensical argument about supporting the local music industry. Roney took over a committee reviewing this issue and steamrolled it thru council. The mayor either slept thru the issue or was in on it, I’m not sure.

    RR is not an investment in local arts. Who are they kidding? RR bring in national acts and divert music customers from venues with local acts. Julian Price is rolling in his grave with any remote association of his good name with these abusers.

    And stop with the we don’t receive complaints. Tallent bought and paid the council so why would a sane person waste their time complaining.

    Tallent’s dcb argument is idiotic. There isn’t a toilet on the planet with a noise level over 70 decibels. And noise is only part of the issue. The bass and shaking is unbelievable. There will be a really serious issue one day when a law abiding long time resident snaps.

    Other cities do not have outdoor venues in their downtowns that blare music 30 nights per year.

    Asheville pretends to want to build density to avoid sprawl and to allow public transportation to develop and they instead kowtow to these irresponsible money interests. The city spent $2-3 million as did the county to buy land to build low income housing literally 50 feet from this noise. Oh hell, they’re poor, who cares.

    Since Tallent doesn’t find this noise unreasonable I wonder if she would support it outside her home.

    • Jason Williams

      Other cities do not have outdoor venues in their downtowns that blare music 30 nights per year.
      I do believe almost every major city does.
      Walnut Creek Amphitheater – Raleigh
      Red Hat Amphitheater – Raleigh
      Skyla Credit Union Amphitheater – Charlotte
      Lakewood Amphitheater – Atlanta
      to name a few.

      • indy499

        Not sure if you are a Rabbit Rabbit investor or a PR hack and/or have never been to the places you mentioned, but your statement is at best misleading.

        I’ve been to Skyla—-the venue is on the very north end of downtown, abuts I-277, faces the road and has no residential nearby

        Red hat in Raleigh—- venue faces a garage, parking lots and the convention center; non residential

        Can’t speak to the reality of the others on residential impact, but based on the two I cited, either can you.

        • SpareChange

          The Lakewood Amphitheater is a professionally designed venue that is miles away from downtown Atlanta. It is part of an enormous, non-residential leisure area which includes the Lakewood Fairgrounds, Southbend Park, Lakewood Speedway, and Lakewood Stadium. The stage, shelter and acoustics are all designed to project sound toward the expansive recreational areas, and away from the relatively few residences in the vicinity. Southbend Park alone is approximately the size of downtown Asheville.

          How is this in any way comparable to having an impromptu live concert venue, built on a bank parking lot, without effective sound buffers, surrounded by residences in what is fast becoming the most densely populated area of downtown?

          This photo from Wiki helps illustrate the point. That is downtown Atlanta off in the distance.

  5. Curious

    If Indy 499’s comments have any factual basis, Is this an issue for investigation by Asheville Watchdog?

  6. SpareChange

    Liz Tallent and the folks in charge of Rabbit, Rabbit, “worked closely with city officials,” much in the same way that oil company lobbyists “work” with Congress in shaping energy policy. In other words, they had a direct and profound impact in shaping the content of the very rules which would then apply to them. And then the city council (with Kim Roney taking the lead) mostly fell into line with their wishes.

    The arguments that both Tallent and Kim Miller fall back on (namely, that there have been few formal complaints, and no cited violations) belies the fact that most residents have just given up in frustration. It also ignores the fact that noise measurements are incredibly complex and are not linear, but base 10 logarithmic. Thus, a 10 decibel difference represents sounds that are 100%, or “twice” as loud. But even more importantly, the human brain does not process noise in a consistent and uniform manner. Volume or decibel level alone is not the issue. Different frequencies are “heard” in different ways. A soothing background noise machine at 60 DB can be used to lull one to sleep. However, 60 DB is also the approximate volume of group conversation in a small room, which most people would find very interruptive if they were not a part of it. This makes comparisons between music (especially at levels above 70 decibels, with its constantly varying volumes, rhythms and frequencies) and the constant din of traffic or other such “white” noise, totally inappropriate.

    And as for the permitted noise level being the equivalent of a toilet flushing, well I guess that depends on how close one’s head is to the toilet. I seriously doubt that Liz Tallent’s or Kim Miller’s windows rattle when they flush their toilets. Yet due to the vibrations from deep bass notes, that is what happens to my windows when there are concerts at RR, and I live more than 3 blocks away from the venue.

    It is, however, a mistake to get caught up in the weeds of debates over decibel measurements, when common sense should have guided the council in realizing that allowing for a large, open air concert venue, right in the heart of a heavily residential part of downtown, was a foolish idea to begin with.

  7. HJG

    Salvage Station is another frequent offender. Plus they serve their beer in single-use plastic.

  8. Grant Millin

    Shoot the messenger.

    The first thing I asked Esther Manheimer about the she announced her council campaign in 2008 was about vehicle noise pollution.

    There was a 2012 noise ordinance modification that skipped vehicle noise pollution. Now there’s buskers with amplifiers.

    What are the facts? What are the failure factors?

    Ending up with 70-100 fewer APD officers is not working well on several levels. There’s been a push for ways to reduce APD without saying in public, “Hey, instead of defunding we are searching for ways to merely destaff.”

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