Jacksonville, FL - Nearly a year in the making, Jacksonville’s ad hoc committee studying noise concerns for special events at Met Park thinks it has a temporary solution- and that will see a vote this week.
“We’ve got to strike a reasonable balance between the two sides, that’s all you can hope to do,” says Council President Bill Gulliford.
The “two sides” at odds in this case are concert promoters/organizers and residents in neighborhoods near Met Park. Those residents, led largely by people who live in St. Nicholas, had concerns over the volume and duration of noise that comes from 12 ticketed events the city holds in Met Park every year, including concerts like “The Big Ticket”.
“Other cities were setting limits, we were not,” says Councilman Don Redman, who represents St. Nicholas and also served on the ad hoc committee.
Concert promoters, however, argue that the limits the city wanted to initially set were arbitrary. Additionally, they believed too many restrictions would drive away some of the big talent they try to bring in, which would in turn send all the related revenue from the event- like hotel money from those who come to town for the concert- to other cities.
The bill crafted by Councilwoman Lori Boyer, with the consent of the ad hoc committee, does set noise limits in a few ways. Redman says they monitored noise levels at a few recent big events for which they placed no restrictions, and decided on the new limit based on those results.
“It’s not restricting any more than what those events put out,” he says.
While the noise level shouldn’t be a problem now, he says the events will likely have to adjust bass levels that nearby residents say cause their walls to shake. A concert can get around these levels as measured at the event itself by using sound equipment and techniques that keep the noise from directing across the river.
Other rules in this bill govern how many additional stages can be built, what direction they can face, and what hours the events can take place.
The more contentious area, for Gulliford, is the penalty system that would be put in place. The event would have to give a $10,000 deposit to the city which will be fully reimbursed after the event if there are no noise violations or one violation, which only leads to a warning. The second violation results in a $1,000 deduction from the deposit, and three subsequent warnings cost the event $3,000 each. If, after the fifth warning, the noise levels are still not adjusted to meet regulations, the city has the right to pull the plug on the event.
“I’m concerned about the reality of the impact of pulling the plug in the middle of a concert,” he says.
Gulliford goes so far as to say it could cause behavioral problems among the crowd, which could result in a riot. He says it would also likely lead to demands for refunds, which would cost the event money and lead to a lot of frustration for promoters who may then not want to work with the city in the future.
He says the bill also includes an inherent double standard, because noise levels at EverBank Field are exempt.
“It’s important, making sure that the standards that we set for noise are consistent across the board,” Gulliford says.
Many nearby residents are not concerned about Jaguar games at EverBank Field, because they say the noise lasts for a shorter duration of time and does not travel as easily across the river. While Gulliford says he’s not trying to lump Jaguars games in, he’s concerned about events comparable to what they would host at Met Park, like the upcoming Country Superfest.
“Noise is still noise,” he says.
If that concert is not held to the same standard as a concert at Met Park, he says there will likely be a lot of complaints and questions coming from event organizers.
“I just want to make sure this thing doesn’t come back to haunt us down the road,” he says.
City Council is set to vote on this bill on Tuesday night. If passed, it would take effect as soon as the Mayor signs it or the timeframe for the bill to become law without his signature passes. These changes would be in effect through September 30, 2014 unless the Council votes at a later date to extend or expire the bill. The legislation does not indicate what would happen after the bill expires.