Cibolo City Council handles complaints about noise in the town center

Wherever you have bars and nightclubs open late into the night, you are going to have to deal with two synonymous factors: noise and neighbors.

On April 12, Cibolo City Council heard from residents and business owners about downtown noise and the noise level emanating from late-night offerings along Main Street.

Police Chief Bryan Hugghins presented information gathered from residents as early as December, when meetings were first held regarding complaints made to the police department. Discussion topics included dates and times of operation, areas of the city, decibel levels, measurement points, permits and penalties for violations.

Hugghins showed charts from the board that showed noise levels in decibels at night and day. Either way, the decibel levels allowed in Cibolo are much higher — 85 decibels during the day, 75 decibels at night — than in cities like San Antonio, Round Rock and Georgetown.

Hugghins presented a chart showing police calls and responses at five locations: 1908 House of Wine and Ale, Old Main Icehouse, Ernie’s Patio, Nobel Lounge and 1911 Cigar Bar.

Of the complaints handled, none produced sound levels approaching 85 decibels. Only two calls involved cases where sound levels were between 75 and 85 decibels. The rest of the calls were sub-75 decibel cases.

“There was one complaint that exceeded the noise limit (75 decibels at night). It was at Old Main Icehouse,” Hugghins said. “Our officer asked them to turn the music down and they did.”

Councilman Joel Hicks, who lives a mile from the downtown district, said he could hear music and noise “like it was coming from my neighbor or my backyard.” Hicks called the police, who came out and recorded a reading of 53 decibels inside his home.

“The officer came to my house and said, ‘This is ridiculous,'” Hicks said. “He could hear the music inside my house with my TV on and my AC on, he could still hear the music. Is this something you call “quality of life”? »

Of 75 noise complaints recorded, one person was responsible for 45% of the complaints. A second person was responsible for 3% of the calls.

Of those 75 complaints, 60 were filed against the 1911 Cigar Bar in the 200 block of South Main Street across from City Hall. Of the 60, 25 were ‘unfounded’, meaning the complaints were made at a time when the venue was closed, there was no music or other instances that weren’t factors. when the police responded.

Councilor Steve Quinn said it was clear to him that the single person responsible for so many calls about a bar meant someone had a grudge or was holding a vendetta against the bar.

Councilor Reggie Bone said the relative lack of calls against the remaining four venues – eight complaints against four bars – made him wonder how pervasive the noise really is. He said he also understands that not everyone in a noisy situation will call the police about it.

Recent meetings held with residents and business owners have produced radically different reactions. Residents have responded by asking to reduce permitted decibel levels, increase penalties for violations, or create a license for such businesses.

Suggestions from a meeting of business owners the next day ranged from residents replacing windows and establishing quiet zones between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. to several responses of “do nothing.”

One person noted, “Noise ordinances should not be changed. When is it harassment? Another said, “If no law or ordinance is broken, don’t change anything.”

The disparity between residential and commercial concerns reverberated through the ranks of the council. Hicks’ call for lowering the decibel level was met with resistance from Quinn, who asked where the line would be drawn the next time complaints were filed against companies that didn’t break any decibel laws.

The police chief said he did not believe the views presented were “polar opposites”, but expressions of concern each side wanted the other to hear.

“The feeling I got from residents and business owners is that they want to be good neighbors to each other,” Hugghins said. “I don’t think there’s a consensus on how we’ll get there, though.”

Quinn said lowering the decibels probably isn’t the answer.

“You reduce the decibels to, say, 75. The music is obviously going to be loud. So they’re going to come back and say it’s still too strong and they want to lower it to 65,” Quinn said. “So it’s still strong, we’re going to lower it to 55. At the end of the day, where do you draw the line? My concern is where does it end where residents don’t complain?”

Hugghins said decibel readers attached to downtown poles produced sound levels ranging from 68 to 73 decibels – well below the 75 and 85 decibel levels currently in place.

Cunningham said she attended one of two community meetings and heard the complaints made.

“I think, moving forward, we should be methodical about how we (act) because any decision we make will affect businesses that come here down the road,” said Cunningham, who said that she would prefer that the city create zoning districts.

She also discussed remediation solutions with complaining homeowners.

“Maybe one solution would be to work with EDC (Cibolo Economic Development Corporation) and the company and find a way to use EDC funds for noise abatement,” she said. . “It can be expensive…maybe there’s a bush or a wall we can build to help block it out. I’m having a hard time saying the company should build this because if they’re following our noise ordinance they’re not violating.

Hugghins said cities that lowered their noise ordinances “said it had no adverse impact on their downtown businesses.”

Mayor Stosh Boyle said a solution proposed by Councilor TG Benson might be best – approach the companies and request a temporary, voluntary reduction in noise levels for a set period. This would allow council to hear residents if noise reduction helped. Businesses might also wonder if a sound reduction of 5 or 10 decibels had an impact on their revenue.

“We have to do something or this problem will only get worse,” Boyle said.

“Let’s do it. I want a ‘good neighbor policy’ to come into effect,” Benson said. “Ask the downtown trade association to say we’re going to do it, we’re going to try it, to see what happens.

But Benson himself quickly threw cold water on that plan.

“My problem with the whole idea now is that you’re telling me you mounted a (device) on a pole and 68 (decibels) is the low, middle, and we still have complaints. Where do we go from that ? “

Boyle asked to set up a meeting with the major companies before the April 26 board meeting to see if they would consider a “probationary period” of a lower decibel rating.

“I’m really confident that between the companies we could find a solution,” Cunningham said.

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David H. Henry