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BY MIKE GIBSON
Kingston Council members took a first step toward a new noise ordinance, giving hope to residents in the vicinity of West Race Street that quiet nights and sounder sleep are on the horizon.
Council passed a new, more stringent—and specific—ordinance on first reading at its Oct. 9 meeting, by a 5-0 vote, with one pass. Councilman Kevin McClure elected to take a pass on the vote, for reasons he did not explain; Councilman Tony Brown was absent leaving the board one shy of its full count.
“We’re probably not going to help everyone, but we’re going to help a lot of people,” said Councilman Don White. White is a resident of the West Race Street neighborhood where the current noise over noise began, when outdoor patio music and revelry from the Smokehouse Grill spurred complaints from residents this past summer. The residents have said the Grill’s loud entertainment keeps them until late hours, even on weeknights; one of the noise complaints is due to be heard in court in November, with several of the neighbors having been subpoenaed, including White himself.
Meetings with Grill owner Jot Raymond to discuss the problem have reportedly been unsuccessful.
“I think [the new ordinance] is a step forward,” White continued. “And if there are problems, we can always go back and tweak it.”
Councilman Norm Sugarman, who seconded White’s motion in favor of the ordinance, also echoed his feelings concerning it.
Unlike Kingston’s current noise law, the new ordinance would specify permissible outdoor decibel levels according to time and zoning classification—commercial, residential, or industrial. For commercial and residential areas, there is a five-db difference between what is allowable between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and from 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., when the permissible noise level is somewhat lower.
The decibel levels would be measured at the property line—65 decibels in a residential area until 10 p.m., and 80 decibels in a commercial zone until 10. Even though it is in the vicinity of residential properties, the Grill would probably be held to the commercial standard, since it is zoned for such.
Council members have worried, though, that the ordinance could have unintended consequences. For that reason, a number of exceptions have been included, such as allowances for certain public events, emergency vehicles, construction projects, etc.
Still, it has two more hurdles to clear before it can supplant the city’s previous ordinance. It will receive a second reading, probably at the November council meeting, and a public hearing as well, to be announced soon.