It was a mixed bag for Met Park for Jacksonville’s City Council, but the clear message is, the debate is only just beginning.
After hearing four hours of public comment almost exclusively dealing with noise issues at Met Park during ticketed events, the council took up two separate pieces of legislation that were added on to the original agenda for the night.
The first was a bill sponsored by Councilwoman Lori Boyer. The action waived the noise ordinance and penalties at Met Park for two ticketed events coming up this month- the Boat Show and “Welcome to Rockville”. During those events, the city would study the decibel level at the sound boards, as well as in neighborhoods surrounding the venue. The action was taken up as an “emergency”, meaning the council took a vote on it even though it hasn’t gone through the normal cycle of committee reviews. Councilmembers agreed to act quickly because of the time sensitive nature of the bill. They also took up an amendment that added Funkfest to the list of excepted events. Boyer says following that cluster of events, the city would have a lot of time to go through the results and figure out the next step before affecting any other events.
The measure passed on a unanimous vote.
The council also debated at length whether to have a vote on a bill sponsored by Councilwoman Kimberly Daniels. Her measure would expand the entertainment district downtown to include Met Park, EverBank, other venues and the surrounding areas. The entertainment district exempts the noise ordinance during events as well as open container laws.
Daniels’ bill has not yet made it out of both committees, so the debate council faced was whether to “discharge” the bill, allowing for a full vote tonight. While many council members weren’t necessarily against the bill itself, they were against taking up the measure at this time because of a number of questions that remain, including the ramifications of the open container law exemption. The Daniels bill remains in committee.
So while the next month is secure for events at Met Park, promoters tell me this is really just another step in the ongoing discussion. The city will now collect data on noise levels, but then using that, they will aim to establish an accepted decibel level for events. It’s likely an area where promoters and area residents will clash once again.
There was a large group of speakers from the St. Nicholas area that spoke about their concerns with the noise, as well as the content of the noise (rock music). They were far outnumbered by speakers opposed to restrictions on Met Park, however.