One year and a day from its formation, members of the City Council Metropolitan and Urban Parks Ad Hoc Committee agreed on sound level regulations, measurement methods and penalties for violating the regulations at the park.
The measure is now ready for consideration by the full council.
The committee was formed after council member Don Redman introduced an ordinance to eliminate ticketed events at the riverfront park. His action was based on complaints from some of his constituents who live across the St. Johns River from the park in San Marco and St. Nicholas.
Two weeks later, Redman withdrew the legislation, saying he filed it to “get some attention” for the residents’ complaints about noise and foul language at some Metropolitan Park events.
Council member Denise Lee was assigned to chair the committee. She was joined by council members Lori Boyer, Johnny Gaffney, Bill Gulliford and Redman.
On Wednesday, based on consultation between the Office of Special Events, the city Environmental Quality Division, the mayor’s office and concert promoters, the committee approved using the time average sound level, also known as the “equivalent continuous sound level,” measurement technique.
The sound level of a concert at the park will be measured by city staff at the sound mixing board and may not exceed 105 dB(A) over a five-minute measurement period. That sound level is a little quieter than a chainsaw.
If the measured level exceeds the limit, the concert promoter will be notified and will have 10 minutes to reduce the sound level below the limit. Level measurement will be made every 20 minutes during a performance.
Mike Yokan, attorney and co-promoter of the “Welcome to Rockville” and “Big Ticket” festival concerts at the park, said the averaging method is more fair than a “snapshot” method employed at his concerts last year.
The first violation of the new standard would bring a warning. Subsequent violations would be subject to fines from $250 per occurrence to $2,000 per occurrence, based on the maximum sound level recorded above the accepted level.
“This is a model worth trying. I wish the fines weren’t so high,” Yokan said Wednesday.
Lee countered, “We’ve got to try something. Nothing is going to be perfect.”
While the committee was considering the new standards, the existing noise ordinance was waived for concerts last year at Metropolitan Park in order for the city to study sound levels in the park and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Assistant General Counsel Paige Johnston said when the regulations are approved by council, the standards and penalties will be included in lease contracts for use of the park.
Contracts for the 2014 “Welcome to Rockville” festival in April and the “FunkFest” in May have already been signed by the city and promoters, said Tonisha Gaines, director of the Office of Special Events. Therefore, she said, the new proposed standards will not apply to those shows.
On the issue of foul language that has been used on the stage at some shows at Metropolitan Park, Assistant General Counsel Stephen Durden advised the committee that attempting to regulate profanity would be “unlikely to be valid.”
“Defining profanity would be vague. No one knows what that means. Content-based regulation is generally not valid,” he said.
Durden described any attempt by the city to control and then penalize artists for their speech during a show in Metropolitan Park as “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
Their work is done.