Olentangy Valley News

Powell seeks compromise after late-night music gripes

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A group of Powell residents who live near the city's downtown are asking businesses to turn the noise down a notch.

During Powell City Council's Operations Committee meeting April 15, officials discussed potential solutions that the city's residents and music venues could live with.

According to city records, residents made 21 loud-music complaints from 2011-13. Nineteen of those complaints focused on music being played at Local Roots, 15 E. Olentangy St.

Dave Hartline, who lives on Glen Abbey Court southeast of downtown Powell, said some nights his family is not bothered by the volume of live acts downtown. On other nights, he said, he feels like he's attending the show.

"I can hear every word of Quiet Riot as I'm putting my kid to bed," he said. "That's difficult."

Local Roots owner Jessi Iams said she tries to be considerate of her business' residential neighbors. She said she often walks a loop around the business when musicians are playing to make sure the noise isn't traveling too far.

"I want to try to find a happy medium, but at the same time I'm trying to do what's right for my business," she said.

Iams said she decided not to let live acts play after 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to be considerate of her neighbors.

"I would prefer to go until midnight, 1 o'clock, because I have a full bar. I have a full patio," she said.

Powell City Manager Steve Lutz said council considered a noise ordinance two years ago but abandoned it due to concerns over enforcement difficulties and the potential for legal challenges.

Powell police Chief Gary Vest said noise complaints have generally "been handled through an informal process" in the city.

He said when residents call the department to report loud music, an officer is dispatched to talk to the business or property owner and request they turn the music down. If loud music continues, the resident can further pursue a complaint of disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, he said.

Vest said that, in his time as chief, he did not think anyone had pursued charges against a business following a noise complaint. He said the city's police officers do not patrol the city seeking out loud music.

"That is based on (complaints) totally, because we have no other standard currently in city ordinance," he said.

If the city did adopt a noise ordinance, Vest said officials could not selectively enforce it. Loud machinery and vehicles would be subject to it as well as live music. The city also would have to decide what decibel level would qualify for a citation.

Vest said an ordinance could be costly, too. He said tools that measure decibels can cost several thousand dollars and must be calibrated at a cost of $300 per year in order for their use to hold up in court.

Councilman Tom Counts suggested that, in place of a noise ordinance, the city work with business owners and residents to come up with informal rules regarding live music.

He said he thinks Iams can work with the musicians she brings in to set an acceptable limit for their amplifiers. He told Iams he did not want to pursue rules that would hurt her business.

"I see the downtown as needing the kind of vibrancy your establishment brings," he said.

Andrew Ottavio, who also lives on Glen Abbey Court, said he's not sure a noise ordinance would mitigate the problem. He still, however, wanted the city to take some kind of action to reduce the noise at downtown businesses.

Ottavio said live music in the city is disrupting his sleep. He said rock music on weeknights goes against the small-town character of the city.

"I've lived in this city for 25 years," he said. "I'd never imagined I'd have to deal with this type of problem."

Ottavio said an acoustic act likely would not bother him, but he said a full band playing in downtown Powell was "totally inappropriate."

Vice Mayor Brian Lorenz said he thinks business owners can work more closely with residents to decide what is an acceptable noise level for live music.

"At the same time, we want to keep downtown as a vibrant place," he said.

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