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Competing claims on how to deal with Met Park noise
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Competing claims on how to deal with Met Park noise

Competing claims on how to deal with Met Park noise
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
Mitt Romney made a campaign stop in Metro Park in Jacksonville on 10/31

Competing claims on how to deal with Met Park noise

Just a few weeks after Jacksonville’s City Council withdrew a measure that would have banned ticketed events at Met Park and instead created a committee to investigate the noise levels, a number of competing bills are in front of your representatives.

Entertainment District

Two of the measures directly deal with the Entertainment District that was established when Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl.  The zone is exempt from noise ordinances as well as open container laws and other restrictions during designated times for events.  Councilwoman Kimberly Daniels has put forward a bill that would extend the district to include Met Park, EverBank Field, the baseball field and other venues in the area.

But for Councilman John Crescimbeni, that’s not the right move.

“The entertainment zone was created to be a temporary lived thing,” he says.

Along with Councilman Matt Schellenberg, Crescimbeni is sponsoring a bill that would repeal the entertainment district entirely.

“Once the Super Bowl was over and done with, that legislation creating that entertainment zone should have come off the books,” Crescimbeni says.

He says the zone isn’t intended to be something the city uses on a day-to-day regulatory basis, so using it to ordain a noise level on the venues isn’t right.  Schellenberg doesn’t necessarily want to get rid of the zone altogether, but says the current zone- or extension thereof- doesn’t fit what the city needs now.

“I just think that we need to regroup and figure out what that area- all that area- is good for,” he says.

Schellenberg remembers the city’s debate over a decade ago over whether there should be an amphitheater in Met Park.  When that’s added to the noise complaints generated from neighborhoods like St. Nicholas today, he says we just need to start from scratch.

Test period option

Councilwoman Lori Boyer wanted to have yet another option on the table.

“Don’t do something that just waives it [the noise ordinance] forevermore without having any of the data behind it,” she says of the plan she’s putting together.

Boyer has drafted a three part plan that is not on the formal council agenda, but that she hopes to get on the addendum- something Council President Bill Bishop tells me shouldn’t be a problem.  The first part of the bill waives the noise ordinance for the events that have already been commissioned for April, like “Welcome to Rockville”.  The second part would shield organizers during this month against potential noise-related fines or penalties they could incur if the ordinance were fully enforced.  Finally, she would have the city spend $3,000-$5,000 during those events to monitor the noise level at the site, as well as in surrounding neighborhoods.

She says it’s not proper to act on the entertainment zone without getting the data to back it up.

“My concern was we were kind of taking a very broad approach to solve a narrow problem,” she says.

Boyer tells me this study would focus more specifically on noise at Met Park, which seems to be the center of the concern.  Changing the entertainment zone would also mean lifting open container laws in the entire area, and Boyer says they have done no research in to how that would affect concessions at the stadium or public safety.

The back and forth

For promoters working on the Met Park events, time spent defending themselves, is time that’s diverted from making the event the best it can be, and trying to put Jacksonville on the entertainment map.

“It’s disquieting and discomforting and a huge distraction,” says Jacksonville attorney and promoter Mike Yokan.

He says it can be difficult to attract really big names to the area and put together these large festival shows without actually knowing if the show itself can happen.  And the show itself has the potential to bring lots of local jobs and revenue through hotels and restaurants.

“Half of our crowd comes from outside of the greater Jacksonville area,” he says.

But Jan Miller, who has lived in St. Nicholas for 30 years, says she’s less concerned about the economic impact, and more so about what it’s meant for her quality of life.

“If I’m not paying to hear for it, I don’t want to hear it,” she says.

She tells me the concerts have gone on longer and louder than before, and it carries across the river, sometimes shaking their walls.

Concerts v. other noises

Often in the debate over noise from concerts at Met Park has come the question of whether it’s the noise, or what’s said- why complain about concerts and not a football game?

For Miller, content is a concern, but it’s also the uncertainty of the concerts- when will they be, will they end on time, etc.

“When they [the Jaguars] do their music or their cheering, it’s not nearly as loud as a concert at Metro Park,” she says.

For Boyer, it boils down to what’s already on the books.

She says the current noise ordinance already includes exceptions for moving transportation, like trains or flyovers.  Also, the noise is measured as an average over 15 minute intervals, so the spurts of noise from a football crowd don’t register as high as the sustained noise from a concert.

Boyer admits some of the high volume events at EverBank could possibly violate the current ordinance, but says right now, there is very little done to monitor it, so that’s something they will have to find out.

Solution Tuesday night?

Yokan tells me he hopes something will be worked out soon.

“It’s a beautiful venue and there’s a way to make things work moving forward, and that’s what we hope if going to happen,” he says.

The “Welcome to Rockville” concert is planning on several promotions right outside City Hall leading up to the meeting, and encouraging people to speak on the current proposals.  St. Nicholas residents are also organizing with plans to show up in large numbers and speak on the proposals.

In all reality, however, the whole meeting could conclude without council formally discussing anything.

Bishop tells me while he may let the Boyer bill on the addendum, meaning it could be read in for the first time in front of Council, he will flatly refuse action to put anything dealing with Met Park on the fast track because the issue is- in his words- so important.  That means it’s unlikely we will see it bumped up to a full vote.

The Crescimbeni/Schellenberg bill to eliminate the Entertainment zone is up for its first reading Tuesday, meaning there is still about one month before that will see a vote as well.

Daniels did not return an interview request to address concerns about her bill.  It has cleared one committee but remains tied in another, which Daniels chairs.  It is possible that she could discharge the bill so it gets a council vote Tuesday, however Bishop would have to agree to put it on the agenda or it would take a significant vote from City Council.  While Bishop says he wouldn’t rule that out as a possibility, he tells me he needs to more closely review the proposal before formally deciding.

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