Noise ordinance doesn’t skip beat, City Commission approves measure on second reading

Gary B. Gray • Sep 20, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Johnson City is moving without hesitation to dampen booming and thumping bass-driven noises that are not necessarily dangerous to the eardrums but apparently are causing sleepless nights and mental discomfort.

The City Commission on Thursday unanimously approved a second reading of a ordinance that would penalize any business, structure, vehicles or people creating sounds exceeding a new low frequency decibel level threshold in residential areas.

Dr. Dan Schumaier, a local audiologist, has donated his time and expertise to help craft the amended ordinance. Once a third reading passes, Schumaier will personally train Johnson City police officers on measuring devices that capture and measure the bass sound on a “C-scale setting,” a method used to measure decibel levels.

The current ordinance includes only the use of A-scale settings. Basically, low frequency noise levels from a bar, for example, that were not violations under the present ordinance, will become illegal at certain levels. The Electric Cowboy has been the main example in this exercise, and Schumaier said Thursday he personally went to locations near the club and took various readings.

“Noise ordinances are not anything new,” he told commissioners. “The first one came about in 100 B.C. by the Romans. The ordinance currently used by the city works on a dBa (decibel measuring scale). This scale is used to measure when it is going to damage the ear.

“Today we have places that create low frequencies. There are some cars where the sound of the bass will actually move the windows in and out. This also occurs in some establishments. The way most communities are handling this is by using the dBc scale.”

The amended law states that “low frequency ambient” sound levels will be measured at the source of a complaint when the sound (band, crowd, etc.) is not under way. This measurement will be used for comparison at the same location when sound is emanating from the location.

The Electric Cowboy is located at 1805 N. Roan St. in the Roan Centre, a strip mall. The club is open from 7:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Regional Manager Jeff Bostic did not return calls last week. When the Johnson City Press called Thursday night, informed the person on the other end of the phone about the city’s action and asked to speak to the manager, the man who answered the phone replied: “No comment, partner.”

Violating the code will mean receiving a citation and a $50 fine for each violation.

Meanwhile, commissioners unanimously approved application for a $250,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Mitigation Assistance grant. If received, the city would be liable for a 25 percent match of about $83,000, bringing the total amount available to buy the Kelly’s Foods property at the corner of Sevier Street and West State of Franklin Road to about $333,000.

The money would be used for excavation and construction of a stormwater project to decrease flooding and improve water flow in Brush Creek, not only at that specific location but also to improve drainage from the Tree Streets, as well as continued flow through Founders Park.

The property is appraised at about $417,000. The difference — assuming the owners would sell at that price — would be paid for by using money in our storm water fund, according to Public Works Director Phil Pindzola.

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