For the second time in four months, Gahanna City Council has amended its noise code in response to residents' complaints about loud music from local bars.
Council on Oct. 15 unanimously amended its noise code that is designed to turn down the volume earlier in the evening. The amended code retains established decibel levels but implements an earlier time for those limits: from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. in institutional, residential and commercial areas and from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Olde Gahanna.
Another change involves the elimination of the maximum peak sound level, meaning the greatest sound level observed at a certain place during a given period of time.
Council also approved exemptions to the noise code for programs, activities or events that are organized, sponsored or sanctioned by a public or private school in the city limits, by the Mifflin Township trustees or by the city.
Companion legislation to the amended noise code adds an unclassified misdemeanor, punishable by a fee of up to $1,000 and/or 500 hours of community service, to Chapter 501, Penalties for Misdemeanors, of the city's code.
Council last amended its noise code by emergency July 16, allowing police to measure the sound level from the source of the noise instead of the source of the complaint.
Council also reduced the reading time to obtain the average decibel from three to two minutes.
The maximum allowable two-minute average decibel level in institutional areas is 50 from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and 60 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. In residential areas, it's 50 from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and 60 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. In commercial districts, it's 65 from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and 70 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. In Olde Gahanna, it's 65 from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 70 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 65 from midnight to 7 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 70 from 7 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
Ruby Lane resident Tom Lefchik thanked council for its time and effort concerning the noise issue.
"I appreciate the change in the time," he said. "I think 70 decibels is a bit high."
He said he has been monitoring The Pub, a bar closest to his home.
"This year, it only reached a 70-decibel level one time," he said. "With the windows closed, I could hear it through the walls. I think lowering the limit would be appropriate and still meet the needs of the business."
Lefchik asked council to reduce the decibel from 70 to 65 decibels.
Council member Brandon Wright said council has taken steps by "leaps and bounds" to meet residents' concerns.
"I still have some hesitation with it, but I do think we should come back and look at it in the future to see if it needs adjustment," he said.
Council member Beryl Anderson suggested that council revisit the issue in the spring, when bands start playing outside local establishments.
"We haven't gotten details about daytime complaints," she said. "It has been in the evening. ... Sound impacts our lives. As we move forward, we need a watchful eye to see if we need to move the time back from 9 to 7. I'm sure the citizenry will come back and tell us."
Council member Karen Angelou commended the business owners who came forward to work toward a resolution.
"We'll continue to tweak it if necessary," she said.
Angelou asked Police Chief Dennis Murphy for policies and procedures that would be used with the noise code.
"We can find statistics at any time," Murphy said. "People call; we respond and take a reading. It's either in compliance or not in compliance."
Council member Ryan Jolley said council has done a great job of striking a balance to meet the needs of residents and businesses.
"I think we have a good compromise, and I think this is where we should settle on this issue," he said. "I appreciate my colleagues coming to a consensus. I think it's a good compromise for the community."
In council discussion, Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said finance director Jennifer Teal would present the third-quarter finance report during the Oct. 22 council committee meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m.
"This is always a great opportunity for council and the public to see where our revenues and expenses are compared to our plans," she said. "In addition, Jennifer will present a five-year revenue and expense forecast. This will be an important presentation that will show where we believe we are heading.
"This information will be crucial in the coming months and years as we make important decisions about what kind of city we want to be," she said.