Another step was added Monday to the process to get proposed legislation controlling noise levels at Metro Park events to the City Council for a vote.
At the conclusion of a three-hour meeting of the Metropolitan and Urban Parks Ad Hoc Committee, council President Bill Gulliford directed representatives from the city Office of Special Events and the Environmental Quality Division to recommend sound level measurement criteria, as well as an escalating scale of fines and penalties for violating park noise regulations.
Gulliford said when the recommendations are complete, the ad hoc committee will reconvene to approve amendments to the bill. The legislation was debated Nov. 26 by the full council and then sent back to three committees: Public Health & Safety, Recreation & Community Development and Rules.
"Get that done by Dec. 31," said Gulliford.
The method of measuring sound levels at events in the park came into question nearly a year ago when council member Don Redman was contacted by residents in neighborhoods on the Southbank who objected to noise from concerts in the park.
A pilot study was conducted by the city in April during the Welcome to Rockville music festival. Multiple sound level readings at several locations were recorded. Analysis of the data resulted in a recommendation that limiting sound levels inside the park would reduce the sound levels in the Southside neighborhoods across the St. Johns River.
The method of enforcement also will be considered before the final amendments are filed. One suggestion is to require concert promoters to have a staff member at the sound board during a concert so as to be notified by city staff when a sound level violation is measured.
The promoter would then have the option to instruct the board operator to reduce the amplification through the sound system to avoid further sound level violations.
Council member Lori Boyer suggested a "sliding scale" of fines and penalties similar to those used for speeding tickets. Fines could begin at a minimum $100 and escalate to a maximum $15,000 plus a three-year ban on a promoter using Metro Park in the event of a flagrant or extreme violation.
Promoter Danny Hayes, who produced Welcome to Rockville and this past weekend's Big Ticket concert, said he lost money on the Big Ticket show due to less-than-ideal weather and would have to book more shows at Metro Park to compensate for the loss. Having that option taken away in the event of noise-level violations could affect future use of the park.
"I would not be willing to take that business risk," said Hayes.
Council member Denise Lee, who chairs the ad hoc committee, said the meetings between Special Events staff and the Environmental Quality Division should be properly noticed to ensure that event promoters, council members and the public can participate in the discussion to establish guidelines for use of Metropolitan Park.
"We want to do what is fair as best we can do it," Lee said.