Noise ordinance controversy resurfaces

Musicians, venue operator ask Bend City Council to reconsider limits, fines

By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin / @hborrud

The controversy over concert noise in Bend made an encore appearance at a City Council meeting Wednesday night when musicians and a venue operator showed up to raise concerns about the city noise ordinance.

The City Council passed the ordinance in May after residents complained about loud music at the Century Center and a hard rock concert at Troy Field downtown during the Bend Summer Festival. The ordinance limits noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Wesley Ladd, one of the owners of The Horned Hand on Colorado Avenue, said the ordinance threatens the future of the concert venue he started 15 months ago. Ladd said police officers issued The Horned Hand a citation for violating the noise ordinance Aug. 29. “This essentially could crush us in an artistic way,” Ladd said. “We’re bringing a lot to this town artistically.... Obviously, we’re a small mom-and-pop business, so the severity of the fines is pretty severe.”

Fines escalate quickly for violations of the noise ordinance. The maximum penalty for the first violation in a one-year period is $750. The second violation within a year costs up to $1,500, the third is up to $5,000, and the fourth and any subsequent violation costs up to $10,000.

After the police issue a citation for violating the noise law, the case goes to Municipal Court.

If the court determines someone violated the noise ordinance, it must impose at least 50 percent of the maximum penalty. Each day on which a violation continues is a separate violation.

Mayor Jeff Eager said the City Council will meet to discuss possible changes to the noise ordinance Oct. 17. Eager encouraged musicians and venue operators to submit suggestions and attend the meeting.

There was already controversy around concert noise when The Horned Hand opened, so Ladd worked with the city and other concerned residents on the noise ordinance that is now in effect. Ladd supported much of the ordinance, but said Wednesday night that some problems remain.

For example, police should respond to the location where someone called in a complaint, not just to the concert venue, Ladd said. That way, officers can determine whether the music is audible at the site of the complaint. Event organizers outside Bend are aware of problems scheduling concerts in the city, so some have stopped scheduling bands in the city, Ladd said.

Ladd and other people in the music industry formed a group called Bend Residents for a Sensible Noise Ordinance to represent their concerns.

Musician Jason Schweitzer, who is in the band The Rum and The Sea, said police should rely more on a decibel meter. In some cases, people have complained about noise from The Horned Hand when it was actually closed, Schweitzer said.

Organizers of concerts and other events can apply for permits to hold events that would otherwise violate the noise ordinance, but they must submit the applications 45 days in advance. That requirement is cumbersome, Schweitzer said.

Councilor Tom Greene said Schweitzer’s suggestions were helpful. “We need those concrete things so that we can actually make changes,” Greene said.