The city says it is happy with the noise being enforced based upon loudness being over 72 dBA [A-weighted decibels] daytime and 67 dBA nighttime (62 dBA in the wee hours). Many of us disagree. We as residents in the city are constantly bombarded by noise, and we need an ordinance that lets us enjoy our residences without this excessive noise intrusion.
Sure, Asheville is a noisy town, and some of it is really OK, as I will try to explain.
Factors for a new noise ordinance could be:
1. Does it disturb a person of normal sensitivity? (As Greenville, S.C., has — and they also have “sandwich boards” out on sidewalks warning of noise penalties.)
2. What is the duration of the noise? The Buskers Collective (with the city) has a guide at two hours, and that is not being followed.
3. What is the type of noise? Examples being: Is it “repetitive” — is it the same songs over and over; maybe drums, loudly striking buckets and cymbals alone (as in “no music being involved”). Is it disturbing by being loud in amps, which is noise to residents even if under 67 dBA?
There is a resurrection of downtown living, growing every year, and should not those residents have some protection for what is truly “noise” to them?
Lots of what is noise may not be meeting 67 or 72 dBA (in the present ordinance). Noise right now in our living rooms even at less than 67 dBA really does “disturb.”
Maybe the city should consider having a separate section in the ordinance focusing on downtown residential, as some buildings with residents receive direct blasting of noise, especially from buskers not following the buskers’ guidelines.
The city might approve exemptions to the noise ordinance: Most people living downtown can accept some activities over 67/72 dBA, as most might not consider them “noise.”
The city could approve some noisemaking activities as being acceptable near residences. Usually those activities are festivals, fireworks, sales events in Pack Square, bands at the bandshell, etc. All of these could, operating under some guidelines, be over the limit of dBA and be allowed by a city permit. I think this would also help the enforcement job, as all city-approved events could be exempt from the noise ordinance.
We do not want to stop the opportunities for justified uses in Asheville by saying all over 67 or 72 dBA must stop. Therefore the 67/72 limits are not a good indication of noise (our ordinance), since that limit is frequently violated even now by city permits.
We do want, most of the time, to be able to enjoy some quiet where we live. Even 67 dBA from the street in our residences is more than we should have to endure. In particular, our range vent funnels the noise right into our living area 24 hours a day.
The duration matters, and noisemaking activities matter and could be limited to under two hours (now frequently they intrude even over five hours).
The present noise ordinance does not meet our needs, and we hope to see significant changes. Others at our residential building expressed their concerns to me recently. Just some examples of noise can be: drums for many hours, preaching/shouting into microphones, repetition that drives us nuts and also seems to us as “noise”; and the amplification that reverberates around Pack Square, which we do not know how to stop.
The city should consider no amplification and no unmuffled drums (as is in the buskers’ guide), and both would be beneficial additions to the ordinance.
Buskers following the buskers’ guidelines benefit by having close listeners participating and contributing. There is no need for busking being “loud,” thereby disturbing residents and businesses.
We need a noise ordinance that is not just a dBA level as it is now but includes what actually disturbs residents and includes how long the noise occurs and may even include the type of noise, while still accepting that the city can permit functions it deems important and contribute to the community and tourism.
We have heard that businesses also are weary of the noise outside their establishments, but some feel it difficult to complain as to possibly face retribution, either damage or maybe loss of customers should they complain. Please consider the businesses that are impacted by noise and need more protection from noise. Their outside seating areas can be very loud and noise intrusive.
It really is up to our City Council to also address this activity noise ordinance as well as the vehicle noise problems (responsibility of the Police Department), as well as address the activity noise (this letter) that is now received by those in residences.
The number of residences in town is growing, and the present ordinance is not now protecting our residents from what is truly “noise.”
— Jerry and Diane Hinz