City revisits noise ordinance
Originally published in the Bandera Bulletin. Reprinted with permission.
By James Taylor - Staff Writer
The Bandera City Council and local music venue owners got an earful at last week's council meeting, where an adamant but respectful crowd of residents shared their views on what should be done with the city's noise ordinance, a historically volatile issue.
While most in attendance were there to request a quieter hometown, a strong showing was made by those who support the existing ordinance; loud honky tonk music and all.
"The council has made a lot of ordinances over the years, and if you make them, you should abide by them," Rilla Stephens pointedly told the council, in reference to complaints that the city did not enforce its existing noise ordinance.
Police Chief Jim Eigner responded, stating that his officers not only enforce the ordinance, but do preemptive sound readings to be able to respond to calls before they come in. Far more often than not, local venues remain within the proper limits, which has some residents saying that the limit is not low enough.
"When I call the police, they do a reading, and say they are within the legal limits; still, the music is just too loud," Gina Aldridge said. "I have double-pane windows and they shake, and it's not just on Friday and Saturday night. All the time, there is no peace...it is a real problem and getting worse. I am not against the music, I am against it being so loud that it disturbs the peace."
Aldridge received a round of applause from the City Hall-filling crowd.
Kay Welch, vocal in the past about the noise issue, said that she enjoys the music, but wants to enjoy it at the venue - not her front door.
"They all need to tone it down; there has to be some kind of compromise," Welch said.
Dan Wise offered another point of view.
"As we sit in this meeting, we hear the noises outside; big trucks going by, traffic...these are the sounds of commerce," Wise said. "These are the sounds of money coming into this city. We don't want to deny a man a living and keep him from paying his taxes; you don't change the rules on a man who has gone to such effort to help build up Bandera."
Referencing 11th Street Cowboy Bar owner James McGroarty, Wise was not alone in his support. Consensus was that the crowd did not want to cause any business owner to lose money, but that they wanted peace in their homes above all.
McGroarty gave a presentation to the council and attendees comparing the noise ordinance limits in Bandera to those of other cities, as well as other things that cause noise, such as musical instruments and motorcycles. Across the board, Bandera's limits were below the state average, and in comparison to day to day life, just above the sound of a car driving down the road.
Residents against the existing ordinance were not appeased; shaking windows and loud country music were invading their homes, regardless of how the ordinance read.
Ruth Hay proposed that the problem is not the noise itself, but the topography and geography of Bandera, and how sound travels across town. Because of little hills and valleys within the city itself, some homes closer to the venues hear less of the music than those farther away and higher in elevation.
Another citizen said that the problem was a lack of buffer. Large cities have warehouses, skyscrapers and other commercial buildings which act as barriers to keep the sounds of entertainment from reaching residential neighborhoods.
"We have four outdoor venues in this one-square-mile town," Linda James said. "The Visitor's Center works every week to bring people to town. Let's be reasonable; it will kill Bandera if we shut down our outdoor venues."
Lanette Pennell of the Almost Patsy Cline Band said that the last time the noise issue came up, they had several cancellations because of it.
"If you take it to one extreme or another, someone will get hurt," Pennell said.
Eigner said that he believes from his experience as a law enforcement officer that, no matter what the ordinance may read, there will always be complaints.
"I will enforce any ordinance, but even if you turn it down to 20db, if people can hear it, they will complain," Eigner said.
As the ordinance was merely up for an informational review, no action was taken at the meeting. The next City Council meeting will be held May 3.
The Bandera Bulletin