Decibels Could Decide Violations in Fort Worth

City council to take up issue again in May

The Fort Worth City Council has put off a crackdown on loud noises in the city.

On Tuesday, the council decided to not to vote on the plan and instead put off any decision until May.

The proposed ordinance would allow police and code enforcement to measure the decibel level of the violation with a noise meter from the location of the complainant.

The city wants to keep residential levels below 70 dBa and in entertainment districts, like the Central Business District, Trinity Uptown and West 7th Village below 80 dBa and the hours are extended on the weekends.

Here’s the proposed hours and decibel levels:

All residential (one-, two- and multi-family) zoning districts:

Daytime: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. = 70 dBA
Nighttime: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. = 60 dBA

All non-residential and mixed-use zoning districts outside “H” Central Business District and “TU” Trinity Uptown:

Daytime: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. = 80 dBA
Nighttime: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. = 70 dBA

“H” Central Business District, “TU” Trinity Uptown, and West 7th Village (per attached map)

Sunday – Thursday
Daytime: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. = 80 dBA
Nighttime: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following day = 70 dBA

Friday – Saturday
Daytime: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. the following day = 80 dBA
Nighttime and Sunday: 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. = 70 dBA

All zoning where ambient noise level exceeds the prescribed maximum level:

7 a.m. to 10 p.m. = Existing Ambient (dBA) + 3 dBA
10 p.m. to 7 a.m. = Existing Ambient (dBA)

The plan covers all kinds of sounds in the city from bar music to garbage trucks, construction areas even animals like dogs or roosters.

Clay Mazur, owner of the Capital Bar in the West 7th District, took part in the public meetings and went as far as to make his latest addition help control the noise. He put up a 23-foot wall around the Capital Bar Backyard stage and outdoor area.

"We built it a little taller than we planned just because we've heard people can hear our music from a mile away," Mazur said. "And we realize that sometimes we get a little louder than we should but we try to keep it under control."

Mazur's business addition brings extra seating, but should also contain the noise generated on the stage. Mazur said he feels fairly positive about the new rules.

"They (police) will have a little more teeth in their noise complaints, so we just have to make sure we're in compliance," he said.

The new rules will mean officers will use decibel readers to determine how loud of a noise is and if it exceeds the standard set by the new ordinance. Those measurements will be taken from the property line of the person who complained about the noise, not at the sound source. The previous rules allowed the noise to be measured, subjectively, anywhere.

"It gives a little more definition to what our officers respond to and how they're going to handle that particular call," said Maj. Billy Cordell with the Fort Worth Police Department. Cordell oversees the Northern Division and is the department's point person on the noise nuisance issue.

If a noise meter is not available, there can be a violation if the officer believes the sounds are “disturbing to a reasonable person.”

Noise citations are not a huge problem in a city the size of Fort Worth. Cordell says only 249 tickets were issued in 2011. He says neighborhood patrol officers try to get complaining parties and those causing the noise to meet and work out the problems before a citation is issued.

"Our goal is not to arrest our way out of a noise problem," Cordell said. "Our job is not to run them out of business, it's to try and resolve problems and make that space where there's conflicts in better for our residents and our business."

That can be a difficult challenge in places like the city's growing urban villages, but that's why Cordell says officers will use citations as a last resort. For businesses like the Capital Bar, they're already doing their part so they don't have to deal with those potential consequences.

The changes also have new rules for animals, cars on the right of way and several exceptions to the rule.

The Fort Worth City Council will take up the noise ordinance again in May. If the changes are passed, violators can be fined up to $500 per violation.

Click here to read the proposed ordinance

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