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Council Votes Down Noise Ordinance

After two years of sound walks, noise ordinance talks, and expert testimony, it is back to the drawing board for a new noise ordinance. At Thursday's City Council meeting, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, LaToya Cantrell, and Jackie Clarkson voted down a proposal that would have regulated sound on Bourbon Street.


After a bevy of amendments, the final vote was 3-3, with Kristin Gisleson Palmer, James Gray and Susan Guidry voting in favor of the proposal, which would have changed decibel limits for businesses. Councilwoman Stacy Head was absent.


Council Prez Clarkson cast her final vote from the dais, as did Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Kristin Gisleson-Palmer. Palmer chose not to seek reelection in late 2013, while the term-limited Clarkson and Hedge-Morrell lost bids to stay on the Council in different seats. Newly-elected members Nadine Ramsey and Jason Williams will join the Council in May.


In 2012, City Council hired sound expert Dave Woolworth, of Oxford Acoustics, to conduct a citywide study on noise in New Orleans. Woolworth released his initial report in August of 2013. After much discussion, City Council, neighborhood groups, and residents decided to narrow down the scope of the first proposal. Recommendations voted down yesterday by the Council focused only on the Vieux Carre Entertainment District (on and near Bourbon St.).


The proposal would have made violations civil, rather than criminal matters. This change would have made noise violations punishable by monetary fines only, rather than jail.


Furthermore, the proposed VCE noise ordinance would have changed decibel limits for Bourbon Street businesses. During the day (7 a.m.-10 p.m.) , limits would have been changed to 87 dB LAeq, and 97 dB LCeq. Proposed nighttime limits were 92 dB LAeq and 102 dB LCeq. The limit is currently 10 dB above ambient noise level, or 60 dB, depending on which is higher. The proposal would have also instituted a process by which sound readings were taken five feet from a building.


Under the proposal, enforcement responsibilities would lie with the New Orleans Health Department rather than the NOPD,  The proposal would have also lifted a curfew on street musicians from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., though Clarkson proposed an amendment to keep it.


Read the full report for more details.


--M.D. Dupuy 


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