(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – After all the racket over the downtown noise ordinance there may finally be a solution and, just as we predicted, it doesn’t require the government forcing its dictates on anyone. Now, if only the government would get out of the way and let it happen. [See Update below: City may be seeing the light on the noise.]
Several years ago, the City of Las Vegas created the Fremont East Entertainment District (FEED) a six-block area downtown. The intention was to promote economic development in this area by attracting night clubs and other live entertainment venues.
A few years ago, in order to increase the allure of FEED, this area was granted an exemption to the City’s noise ordinance. Since that time, entrepreneurs, investors and property owners have risked their money on outdoor entertainment venues in this area, including the Beauty Bar and Azul Tequila.
When Azul Tequila’s use permit was granted in 2009, the City Council intentionally removed a proposed condition that would have restricted the hours of this exemption for Azul. The landowner and owner of Azul both argued the project would not be feasible with this condition attached to the permit.
Recently, the City Council became involved once again as Councilman Ricki Barlow, whose district includes FEED, reported receiving complaints from local residents about late-night noise emanating from Azul. This prompted a series of meetings and a proposed amendment to the noise ordinance that was even more strict than the condition that Azul considered a deal-breaker.
The FEED Board of Directors expressed its strong opposition to any change in the noise ordinance exemption. This stance was echoed by other current and potential investors in the area.
Enter some good-old fashioned American ingenuity and the invisible hand of the market guiding people toward a solution.
Seems the technology exists to produce loudspeakers that can focus sound in a specific direction instead of broadcasting it in a 360˚ circle. The business owners in FEED have proposed employing these directional speakers in place of traditional loudspeakers. Not only will this significantly reduce the amount of noise at adjacent properties, it will enhance the listening enjoyment of partiers at the outdoor venues. And it will cost less than putting roofs over the outdoor music areas, as a previous idea proposed.
Problem solved, case closed, right?
Not exactly, we are talking about government here, after all.
While the FEED board has expressed a willingness to consider decibel-level reductions consistent with OSHA workplace standards, it has been adamant about its objection the City of Las Vegas imposing changes to the noise exemption for FEED. Others who have declared an interest in making future investments in the area have likewise reiterated their opposition to altering the noise ordinance.
In addition, the board maintains that it can accomplish all the necessary notifications and modifications without interference from the government. Still, the City has been pressing for additional meetings to discuss the issue.
Not every problem has a government solution. In far too many cases, government intervention creates more problems than it solves. The most effective solution to any problem is invariably one that is worked out by the people who are directly involved.
The private individuals and businesses most affected by the noise issue in FEED are on the cusp of a solution, one that can be achieved without the heavy hand of government forcing its will on anyone. It’s time for the City of Las Vegas to take a step back and let them work out that solution on their own.
Update: City May Be Seeing the Light on the Noise.
A response from a City of Las Vegas official this morning indicates that the members of the City Council with the most direct relationship to this area appear to be willing, at least tentatively, to let the FEED board go ahead with its plan.
Councilman Barlow was reported to agree with allowing the board to move forward. Barlow is the one who had made the noise complaints public and had crafted the amendment that would have restricted the noise ordinance exemption to certain hours, although this item was dropped from the Council’s October 19 agenda.
While this may represent a change of heart for Barlow, it is entirely consistent with the public stance of Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who was also mentioned in this morning’s message. Mayor Goodman has repeatedly stressed her concern about taking steps that may negatively affect downtown redevelopment efforts.
Stay tuned. This one is far from over.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)