Quantcast

Proposed Norwalk noise ordinance change

Send signed letters to news@nancyonnorwalk.com

Send signed letters to [email protected]

My name is Vernon Howard and I live in SoNo on Washington Street.

Norwalk is in the process of updating its noise ordinance and there seems to be some confusion as what kind of noise is being debated. This is a bit long, but I think it’s important that everyone understands what is going on and since I’ve been the topic of discussion on many forums concerning this issue I feel I need to write this letter to add clarity to some of the false assumptions being made. I believe you should be aware of both sides of the issue at hand and the facts in order to make an informed and educated opinion on what is really being considered and why.

 

Our Story…

Let me begin by showing you an excerpt from the property listing of the unit my fiancé and I now pay a mortgage and property taxes to the City of Norwalk…

“LOCATED IN THE REAR OF THE BUILDING, THIS UNIT IS PEACEFUL AND PRIVATE. OVERSIZED WINDOWS & UNOBSTRUCTED VIEWS PROVIDE A CHEERFUL SUN FILLED LIVING EXPERIENCE.”

 

What it failed to mention was that on any given night (usually sometime after 9:30 p.m.) everything in your bedroom will vibrate and rattle from loud music and subsonic bass sometimes well in excess of 62dB(A) until 1 or 2 a.m. in the morning. You will need to either sleep on your couches or change your sleep cycle and stay awake till the business closes.

In January of 2013 we had decided to start searching for our own place and stop paying someone else’s mortgage. We decided that the South Norwalk (SoNo) area was an attractive area and offered an atmosphere and environment we would enjoy for many years to come.

Our criteria for a home was fairly simple, but a few important points were:

  1. Be near a train station since my fiancé does not drive and uses the train to commute to and from work.
  2. Be close to restaurants and attractions so she would have things she could do on her time off.

We looked at several units around the Washington Street area. One residential unit we looked at was located by the train trestle at the corner of Washington Street and North Main. I remember our real estate agent asking what I was doing as I stood in the bedroom for a while. I simply replied, “waiting”. A few minutes later a train went by and I promptly said “nope” and we headed out. In retrospect, I could have gotten used to that.

We visited the current unit for which we live at least three or four times before deciding to put in an offer at the end of February 2013. Each time we were there it was quiet, warm and inviting, plus, it checked off many of the things we were looking for. We didn’t move in right away. We had some work we wanted to do to the place and it would be easier to do without any of our stuff moved in. We took a month to refinish the floors, paint, remodel the kitchen and perform some other repairs and upgrades. We invested almost $20,000 dollars and numerous hours of work into our new home before we even moved in. Never once during that time did we hear any loud music or noise that would cause us to regret buying the place. Granted, we were probably never there after 9 p.m. either since we didn’t want to be too loud and disturb the existing tenants and our future neighbors.

On Saturday, April 20th, we moved in. Around 10 p.m. that night, exhausted from moving we went to bed. We could hear some music from below, but it wasn’t intrusive at all at that time. A little while later we were woken to our bed and bedroom furniture vibrating and then it got more intense and the music louder and then even louder until we had to get up and leave the room. We were in shock. It was clearly coming from below our bedroom. It’s that very moment when we realized that we had made a grave mistake in buying this place.

We understand that in Connecticut the seller had no legal obligation to disclose the noise nuisance to us, but who would even have thought that something like this was even possible? We’re not from Norwalk, but we’ve both lived in other cities and apartments in similar areas over the years and we’ve never been subjected to this level of noise in an apartment ever. Maybe we were naive to think that business and residents were coexisting on Washington Street due to everyone following the law and respecting each other’s privacy and boundaries like similar urban areas and that the city was prepared to enforce fair and humane ordinances equally under the law. We were very wrong.

 

Where we’re at now…

At first glance at the city’s noise ordinance you would think that the max noise level after 8 p.m. would be 45dB(A), but because our unit is located in a mixed use zone the “least restrictive” guideline is used which is 62 dB(A) and that level is currently allowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t know if know what 62dB(A) sounds like, but it’s ridiculously loud for a place that someone would call their home.

It’s very simple to do a Google search and say that normal conversation can hit 60 dB(A) and easily dismiss our complaint as us being too sensitive, but I don’t think people really understand what a decibel is, how it is measured and what continuous music at 62dB(A) can even sound like. Here are some videos to help you better understand.

What is a decibel: https://youtu.be/_p-WyPg1sbU

Decibel Comparison: https://youtu.be/Wcevwtq60Tc

I made these videos to demonstrate (Turn up your speakers):

Music at around 62dB(A): https://youtu.be/iV5ZScuJHTQ

Music at around 45dB(A): https://youtu.be/DJZhur0zdgY

Crowd of people talking at around 62dB(A): https://youtu.be/dS_jNFgaAJk

Crowd of people talking at around 45dB(A): https://youtu.be/6ijZ9YfO-9g

 

We had what we thought was a reasonable expectation of noise based on our previous experiences, but we grossly underestimated what we would have to endure here. The commercial tenants of the unit below our bedroom have exceeded the current max level of 62dB(A) some weeknights and do so most weekends till 1 or 2 in the morning.

When the current tenant moved in they introduced themselves to the building by taping the below letter to our mailboxes:

letter-to-howard

They started out being great neighbors and we had no complaints for about a month or so after they opened and then suddenly one night out of the blue the music volume went up to “shake the building” level loud again. It’s important to emphasis that they were open and operating without any complaints from us before this point. We’re not complaining about some background music you would hear and expect by living above a bar. Our complaints are about the excessive subsonic bass shaking everything and the higher frequencies that make it sound like our bedroom has become an extension of their business and unsuitable for it’s intended purpose under those conditions.

Here is just one example of what we had to listen to one Thursday morning at 12:36 a.m. – a work night I might add. This recording was taken in our bedroom with my phone resting on the edge of the bed: https://youtu.be/cUmbEH_ERNw. This is just six minutes of the many hours we had to listen too.

As of the past few months, it seems they’re back to playing the music that loud on just Friday and Saturday nights after 9:30 p.m., but who knows when that will change again. We could be sleeping some random Wednesday night at 11 p.m. and suddenly be woken up due to them blasting their music and shaking the walls and furniture again. Who knows? Our ability to sleep when we want to is at the sole discretion of the business located below our bedroom. I get it, we live over a bar and we expected some noise, but not to this extreme. If I had to compare it to the intensity of a storm, it’s category five-hurricane level loud at times.

I will add that the noise level has dropped significantly the past couple weeks too much more manageable levels, but for how long? I have a feeling it has more to do with the public scrutiny they may be receiving on this issue after recent news exposure in another local publication rather than any respect for their neighbors above. Once this all blows over, they’ll most likely be right back at it again if the proposed ordinance changes fail to pass.

I also find it quite disconcerting that a recent petition being spread around online is proclaiming that the proposed noise ordinance is going to hurt business growth in South Norwalk. Is that really true? I don’t believe so. Most of the restaurants and businesses I’ve been in on Washington Street seem to play their music at reasonable levels. I don’t see it causing any issues for most of them at all.

I also find it suspect that someone used the owners name of the business located below us and made the very first comment on that petition. Coincidence? I find it even more suspicious that you cannot view who created and started the petition in the first place.

We get it, they just want to blast their music at any level they want and not be held accountable to anyone. If someone happens to rile people up by proclaiming that the proposed noise ordinance is bad for all the businesses in South Norwalk when in fact it’s really only going to affect a couple of businesses that regularly abuse the noise level, who’s the wiser? All that exposure and public outrage based on half-truths and false assumptions… Aren’t we all sick of fake news and now we’re needing to deal with misleading petitions as well? I have a feeling everyone that signed that petition is just being played a fool, but that’s just my opinion.

Neither the tenant nor the owner of that unit has taken any measures to soundproof the unit or contain the noise as far as we know and if they have, it isn’t adequate for the levels they’re playing their music at. In fact, I have an email from the attorney representing the unit owner to my attorney basically stating we should pay the costs of soundproofing their unit. Seriously? We’re not the ones blasting music at 80+dB(A) in our unit at 1 a.m. in the morning! Why should we be responsible for mitigating their tenant’s excessive noise levels?

Let’s be honest. If you’re a business owner in South Norwalk and the success or failure of your business is hinged on your ability to play your music so loud that it shakes the whole building, than you’re probably doomed for failure. It reeks of desperation and a feeble attempt to try and pull people in from the street. If that’s all you have in your business promotional tool belt, you are ill prepared for today’s informed consumers. Just look at other bars like The Beer Garden, Episode, Rain and probably many more that tried and failed trying similar business modals.

What about the businesses that have been around for many years and seem to be doing just fine? You know which ones I’m talking about. They’re a fixture on Washington Street. They don’t play their music so loud the buildings shake around them, so why are they still in business? What’s their secret to success? It’s definitely not from blasting loud music.

There are many issues that can affect economic growth of a community, but I don’t believe restricting the current noise ordinance is going to limit it in South Norwalk. If anything, it was the lack of parking; the increasingly higher parking fees and the high commercial rents that are likely the leading hindrances to business development here, but lets go ahead and place blame on a restrictive noise ordinance that’s not going to affect 97% of the businesses already open and serving customers anyway.

From what I’ve seen, South Norwalk has evolved to be more of an artsy, entertainment and dining district, not seedy bars and dance clubs that attract the type of people that have little to no respect for our community and the people that call it home. That time was apparently 20 years ago from what I’ve been told. Time to move on to better things.

 

Is 45dB(A) realistic for this area?

Maybe not, but it’s a start while the committee overhauls the whole ordinance. It temporarily gives control back to the residential tenants again. If a business wants to play loud music, it is their responsibility to the community and their neighbors to mitigate their own noise issues and not dismiss the residents by saying, “You chose to live here, deal with it” and then do whatever they please. If that is the case, the City of Norwalk should never have allowed residential units above these commercial spaces to begin with.

Additionally, there is also no financial motivation for these businesses to lower the noise or even install proper noise proofing. The current $99 fine is nothing but the cost of doing business to them and a tax write off and that’s if the police even issue a ticket. In 2015 The City of Norwalk issued exactly zero noise ordinance violation tickets and I would bet if you looked at 2016 you would find the same. The proposed $250 fine is still not nearly enough for repeat offenses in my opinion, but it’s a start.

How the current noise ordinance is written in itself is confusing. It needs to be made clearer and simpler so that the police can enforce an ordinance that is fair to businesses and residents alike that call Washington St. and other mixed-use building zones home in Norwalk.

Anyone that currently lives in a residential space over a commercial unit in the City of Norwalk could have this happen to them at any time if it is not changed.

Maybe right now that commercial unit below you is occupied by a nice quiet business who respects their neighbors, but who is to say they’re going to stay there forever? Maybe the next tenant will be a bar or restaurant that wants to play loud music and does not care when you sleep, your health or that you lived there 10 years without any issues but guess what, you do now and you’re being told you should move if you don’t like it. Would that sound fair to you?

I personally know of at least two other people that have had to move away from their homes on Washington Street due to the excessive noise they’ve experienced in two separate locations on Washington Street. I’m sure there are many hundreds more that I don’t about and left in silence. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of just moving away since we own and have made a substantial investment in improvements and upgrades to our unit and see no way to re-coup that money by selling it right now and, frankly, we love the area for the most part minus the building-shaking bass problem.

I cannot in good conscience try and sell and put another person in the same situation we’re in by not disclosing the noise problem. It wasn’t fair to us, and it wouldn’t be fair to them. We may have been a bit naïve by not being from the area, but I refuse to put another unsuspecting person in the same position we are. It’s unethical and I would question the moral integrity of anyone saying we should or would do so themselves if they were in our situation.

I’m not going to get into get into all the negative health issues associated with long-term noise exposure or the fact that a historic, brick building built in the 1860’s is probably having its structural integrity compromised due to the level of subsonic bass pressure it’s being subjected too regularly, but these are important things to consider as well.

All that being said, would we support some kind of sliding scale noise ordinance for weekends and holidays for this area? Absolutely, but we’re not willing to let the businesses set that noise level or even allow them to self-regulate themselves. For far too long they have dictated when and how much noise they will subject their residential neighbors too without any recourse or interference by the city. In our experience with the current and previous tenants of the commercial unit below us, they’ve proven to us they can’t be trusted to be fair or even care for the well being of the people that live above them and call Washington Street their home.

Contrary to popular belief, we want the businesses on Washington Street to be successful and grow. A busy street full of thriving businesses is good for everyone in the long run. We’re definitely not out to hurt them or put them out of business, but businesses that do fail to respect their neighbors and the community should not be allowed to do whatever they please without consequence. If they want to play their music louder than every other place on Washington Street, they should have to install adequate soundproofing or else keep the music level down to a reasonable level.

For some comparison, what is being proposed here in Norwalk is even less prohibitive than what New York City currently has in place. You can watch this video that was produced by the NYC DEP: https://youtu.be/TyrNJ6E10IE Their noise limit is 42dB(A) which is based on the federal standard set by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) and NYC makes no distinction between residential, commercial or mixed use. If a business plays music or has live bands, these are the rules they need to abide by. It’s all treated the same.

In conclusion…

We ask the city Council to pass the two proposed preliminary amendment changes to the noise ordinance so that residents of mixed-use units in Norwalk no longer need to be at the mercy of their commercial neighbors whims without recourse.

We also ask that moving forward they find a way to simplify and make clearer a city noise ordinance that is mutually beneficial and fair to both businesses and residents of not only Washington Street, but the rest of Norwalk as well.

Regards,

Vernon Howard

17 comments

Thomas Rich March 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Vern , your letter is right on. The fake petition was no doubt started by the owner of room 112 who is, now that the Loft has closed, the only establishment creating continual noise disturbance for the growing residential community on the street. I think the members of the Common Council are astute enough to see this petition as a silly ploy launched by the prime noise maker. Let’s see, a neighborhood with 30 law abiding restaurants and stores and 400 residents vs one crappy little club which is mostly empty form what I can see anyway. I don’t think you have to worry, the ordinance change will pass and it should. The truth of the mater is that there are in fact 400 plus residents who call Washington Street home that should not have to set their sleep schedules buy a few lone businesses that are totally inconsiderate of their neighbors. YOU ARE 100% correct in your thinking. Once the ordinance is fixed, it will be up to the police and zoning to enforce it. What the average person reading this may not know is that a club our noisy operation has a legal responsibility to install sound mitigating controls so that the noise stays within their space. These things include installing sound proof ceiling materials, volume limiters, hanging speakers a certain way, making sure that all windows and doors are closed and that storefronts are outfitted with sound proof glass. In the case of Room 112, they are currently without a final CO because they failed to install these items which were a part of their building permit zoning sign off. I don’t understand how they are not shut down. The owners of this club and any other establishment that intends to make noise can’t get a building permit unless they satisfy zoning that they have hired a sound engineer and that they follow the engineers guidelines when designing and constructing their space. This was ignored and as a reasult you are suffering the most. It’s obscene that this be allowed to go on. Lastly as we we all know this issue is not unique to Norwalk. In NY City where clubs and residents mix often, the fines for noise violators are in the $3,000 per occurrence and claim from there. Vern, thankfully you can’t smoke in any of these places or you wouldn’t be able to breathe either. Interesting isn’t it….smoke no good, totally illegal…..noise…that’s ok? I don’t think so. These are both major disturbances to the quiet enjoyment of neighbors and major health issues. If I don’t get a good sleep…and you are the cause….trust me it will happen one time.

Jim March 12, 2017 at 9:54 pm

Got through most of your letter. I understand your concerns and don’t disagree with a potential decibel level change. What I can’t silence is the nagging question in the back of my head. How could you purchase something on Washington St and NOT think there would be bar noise?

Vernon Howard March 12, 2017 at 10:36 pm

@Jim – Well for one, we’re not from Norwalk, and two… we did know their would be some noise, but not to the extreme we’re having to endure some nights. This is not what I would define as “normal” bar noise. I’ve been in Donovans, Cask Republic and several others and none of them play their music as loud as this business does at times. Last night it didn’t start getting loud until after midnight. That means they were open and serving customers all evening and night till then without us having any issue with the noise level. So we’re not complaining about anything you would expect to have to deal with when living over a bar or restaurant at all.

cc-rider March 13, 2017 at 8:21 am

All the letter really had to state was the NYC noise level vs Norwalk. It is nuts to think we should have a far higher level than NYC.

IronWorks Resident March 13, 2017 at 1:24 pm

I have lived in the Ironworks Building for 2.5 years and have also experienced some of the same issues with restaurants near us. Having moved from NYC, I am certainly tolerant of noise and not easily awakened by tolerable levels of noise. The police try to take action, but their hands are tied. While I think the proposed amendment does not go far enough, something needs to be done.

It is unacceptable, regardless of what day it is, to be woken up at 3 a.m. by blasting music. If any of the operators of the businesses that allow/encourage such behavior will provide their home addresses to us, I (and I am sure others) would be glad to reciprocate the noise intrusion when they are attempting to sleep.

What this comes down to is common courtesy. Clearly some of these business lack same.

I would never give any business to Room 112 and encourage others not to provide any patronage because of their lack of respect and courtesy for their neighbors and the neighborhood.

Businesses seemingly keep failing on Washington Street for a lot of different reasons. Room 112 will be next if they cannot figure out how to get along with the neighborhood residents.

James March 22, 2017 at 12:14 am

Should have done more homework… How do you expect to move into a location with an active night life focuses around a younger generation and not have loud music?

I understand the frustration, but you were not there first.

They are catering to their demographic, it’s the kind of atmosphere young adults enjoy, loud music with deep bass. And money talks.

It’s like moving next to an airport because you need the convenience of air travel, but only want them to operate when it suites you.

Norwalk resident March 24, 2017 at 11:43 pm

You are attacking an individual who has not broken the law. You said yourself the limit is 62 decibels. I did not see your meter exceed that level. You purchased a home without looking into the area. That was your mistake. That location has always been a night club. You didn’t buy a property above a restaurant or a store. You chose a property over a night club. Your situation is unfortunate but it was your mistake. To attack a local business owner because you did not do your diligent research is shameful. Why should the residents of Norwalk who enjoy the SoNo nightlife have to give it up because you made a poor choice? Perhaps you should be focusing your energy on renting or selling so you can move.

Vernon Howard March 25, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Room 112 has exceeded the 62dB(A) level on numerous occasions as well as the previous tenants of that unit. I have meter readings from The Beer Garden as high as 78.8.

I think you’re being a bit dramatic… The residents of Norwalk who enjoy the SoNo nightlife don’t have to give it up at all. Nor do we want that. Businesses can play music as loud as they want in their own units, but they should be required to mitigate the noise that escapes their space to a humane level and the Department of Housing and Urban Development says that level is 42dB(A). The city of New York says it’s 42. I guess they’re both wrong.

You’re correct though. We were naive in thinking that Norwalk had fair and just noise ordinances in place like most of Connecticut that protected property owners like us. In fact if you view the city ordinance and compare it to other municipalities in the state, Norwalk is the odd ball. It’s one of only two that has this one sentence in it:

“Multiple uses. Where multiple uses exist within a given noise zone, the least restrictive land use category for the emitter and receptor shall apply regarding the noise standards.”

Even one of the current town attorneys couldn’t figure why it was there in the first place.

Like it or not, Norwalk is revamping their noise ordinance. I didn’t start it like some would lead you to believe. It’s not my doing. I didn’t call them and say they need to update it and they said okay (that’s ridiculous)… I found out in an email that they were reviewing and most likely revising it and I reached out to them with my situation.

You were misinformed if someone led you to believe this was all my doing.
Editor’s note: This comment was caught in the NoN glitch, sent to the trash by WordPress for unknown reasons. It was cleared from the trash at 10:10 p.m.

Vernon Howard March 25, 2017 at 7:37 pm

@Norwalk resident,

They have exceeded 62 dB(A) on numerous occasions. Just this past Sunday morning in fact. I have readings as high as 78.8 from the previous tenant of that unit as well.

What I find shameful is that the City of Norwalk has allowed this business location to do whatever they want when it comes to harassing their upstairs neighbors for the past 10+ years. There are three units directly above this space and the two others have voiced their issues with the noise level at times with me over the years.

What you fail to understand is that restaurant or store on Washington St. could become a nightclub at some point in the future. Yeah, they’ll probably go in with the guise of being a restaurant, but little by little they’ll add speakers, move the tables around for a dance floor and suddenly they’re a dance club. Isn’t that what happened at Red Lulu? What are the people living over them to do at that point? I guess they should move as well if that happens.

I also run a business. Do you really want me to to get into all the times that units loud music has caused me issues with my ability to communicate with my own clients or disturbed my ability to concentrate and work? I think not.

Your arguments premise seems to be “that’s the way it’s been and we don’t want it to change”. Based on your premise, I guess you also disagreed with mandatory seat-belt laws, warning labels on products, smoking in public places and background checks for gun owners, because hey… that’s the way it was for a very long time before someone came along and thought it should change.

I know what you’re thinking… those are health and safety issues. Well guess what… so is loud noise! Please take some time and Google “effects of loud noise on health” and educate yourself. Nobody should be allowed to be subjected to 62 dB(A) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s inhumane and the premise of your argument is ridiculous.

The fact is, residents of Norwalk will continue to enjoy SoNo’s nightlife and will not have to give it up at all. We’re only asking that that business’s mitigate their own noise and keep in within the confines of their space. They can play their music as loud as they want as long as they are able to mitigate those sound levels down to an acceptable dB(A) level outside of their space. That level is widely accepted as 42dB(A) for nighttime hours. If you disagree with that as well I urge you to petition the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to change their recommendations.

Editor’s note: This comment was caught in the NoN glitch, sent to the trash by WordPress for unknown reasons. It was cleared from the trash at 10:10 p.m.

Donna March 28, 2017 at 10:02 am

In NYC, enforcement of the decibel limits for nightclubs requires police to independently record noise levels. A resident cannot simply assume that the readings from his personal device will result in a citation. While the owners of Room 112 should consider noise mitigating options (and there are many), it’s hard to imagine why the CC would consider changing the code at this time. Nightlife in SoNo isn’t what it used to be. Many spaces are vacant. Imposing on tenants the obligation to pay for noise buffering will not bring business back to SoNo. And those who have invested in residential units on Washington Street, like Mr. Howard and the SoNo Pearl developers, knew what the regulation was before they invested. There is an element of caveat emptor that should apply here. When noise exceeds the 62 decibel limit, the offfenders should receive citations. But the CC should consider carefully the potentially negative consequences for commercial businesses on Washington Street before they change the regulation. In NYC, an interval of 18 months was given to allow nightclub owners time to properly buffer their walls and ceilings. Maybe the City of Norwalk could also help offset costs associated with a change in regulations. We want to attract new businesses to SoNo, not send them packing. While they’re at it, the CC should consider reduced parking rates or free parking in SoNo to attract more people to patronize existing establishments.
I have been living with construction noise a few feet from my bedroom window for months. When they start early, I phone in a complaint. But the ordinance allows the noise. And construction is good for the city, which is good for my property value. The same applies to homeowners above Washington Street. Good luck on a resale when half of the street’s commercial businesses have cleared out due to the new noise regulations.

Vernon Howard March 28, 2017 at 6:20 pm

@Donna – do you know what continuous music at 62 decibels sounds like in someone’s bedroom? Like I said in my letter, I’m more than open to discussions on a set level for Sunday – Thursday and another for Friday and Saturday’s that is within reason, but something needs to give. Businesses should not be allowed to blast music into the apartments above whenever they please. The residents that live here have the right to sleep and the peaceful enjoyment of their homes as well. I want be fair and I’m sure the Common Council will be, but all I’m hearing from the opposition is “Nope”. What ideas have they brought to the table other than that? Absolutely none that I know off. Heck, all we want is the ability to go to bed at a decent hour without the fear of being woken up to music blasting into our bedroom 7 days a week, 365 days a year! I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Donna March 29, 2017 at 10:31 am

@Vernon Howard, do you know what continuous whining at any decibel sounds like? I’m not opposed to some kind of mitigation. But with change, as with noise, tone is everything.

My son has a band. They have a reputation for, among other things, loudness. So yes, not only do I know what continuous music at 62 decibels and above sounds like, I’m aware enough to bring earplugs when I go to a show.

If you had read my comments carefully, instead of jumping immediately back onto your hobby horse, you would have read something that was most decidedly not a “nope”. You write above, “I’m more than open to discussions on a set level for Sunday.” Your tone suggests your comfort level is the sole deciding factor for the Common Council to consider. Bear in mind that a code change from 62 down to 45 represents a considerable shift for establishments that depend on loud music to attract business. In order to comply with the proposed change to 45, they will have to install soundproofing. This is a costly imposition. Rather than changing the code now, if noise levels have exceeded 70 decibels, as you allege, then perhaps better enforcement would be a reasonable place to start.

Mike Bloomberg, the champion of the noise ordinance change in NYC also pushed through the smoking ban. I support the smoking ban. But no bar owner is going to tell you that ban has been good for business. I don’t know how long you’ve lived on Washington Street, but not too long ago, there was a place called the Loft. You could hear their music clear across the bridge into the wee hours of the night. Washington street is the closest thing Norwalk has to a downtown. The only nightlife in Norwalk is on Washington street. And while an amended noise ordinance may not completely kill the nightlife, the cost of noise mitigation may make South Norwalk unattractive to businesses. Also as you have pointed out multiple times in multple ways, the real problem lies with enforcement. So if the new ordinance sets a decibel limit of 45, how does the CC propose to force the PD to enforce the new code? I had to put in three complaints about construction noise beginning before 7am before an officer ever visited the job site. There is also an ordinance governing clearing sidewalks of snow. But we only employ one person–part time–to enforce that little bit of code.

Finally, for $200 you can buy an excellent set of noise cancelling headphones. This will help you ride out the interim period. Even if the CC approves this change, retailers will need time to sound proof their establishedments. You might sleep better, though you may lose the advantage of feeling continuously aggrieved.

Vernon Howard March 29, 2017 at 11:58 am

@Donna – Do you allow your sons band to play 24/7 at 62 dB(A) in your home? I’m going to assume you do not.

Well that’s basically what Norwalk is currently allowing in SoNo if a business wants to do that. This has nothing to do with what my “comfort zone” is. It has to do with the residents ability to sleep and use their homes when and how they want without music or noise blasting into it whenever that neighboring business feels like it.

What was being proposed is actually above the maximum 42 decibels level according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, so it’s not my “comfort zone”. It’s what is widely accepted in areas across the country (in urban areas as well) as the standard level for undisturbed sleep.

What you probably don’t know is that it’s already against zoning rules for a business to open their windows and doors and blast music into the streets. The Loft was in clear violation of that. Also, outdoor speakers are not allowed either, but they still try and mount them there. So I agree, better enforcement of the rules already on the books should be performed. Do I feel that the Police should be charged with this? No, I’d like to see a Zoning Enforcement, Department of Health or DEP officer who has been properly trained in handling these kind of complaints doing it.

If a business does not want to spend the money or time to sound insulate their unit, that’s their prerogative. They just need to keep their noise levels down to acceptable levels without it then. It’s their responsibility to control their noise, not the people living around them to put up with it.

You also seem to be under the impression that this is all my doing. The ordinance was going through a review process regardless of me as far as I know. I only found out about it an email exchange. There are in fact many other people pushing for this change. One being a business person who owns about 75% of the commercial space on Washington St. Why is he in favor of it? Certainly not because of me. BTW, that’s a rhetorical question and I already know the answer.

I’m going to get off my hobby horse and stop whining now.

Donna March 29, 2017 at 3:12 pm

@Vernon Howard, you are correct. I do not allow my son’s band to perform 24/7 at a loudness of 11. Why not? Because my house is not a nightclub on Washington Street. I live according to the existing codes for my residential zone. The current noise restrictions for mixed use zones pre-existed your purchase of property there. In other words, the only thing different about Washington Street now that wasn’t true several years ago is that you live there. Otherwise I would pronounce Washington Street 2017 decidedly less noisy than previous iterations, including the Loft Era.

Again one of the problems you face as a property owner above Washington Street falls more under enforcement than codes. Maybe Norwalk PD isn’t the place for this kind of enforcement to reside, and perhaps better with Dept. of Health of Code Enforcement, as you suggest. And I’m all for Norwalk stepping up its enforcement game.

But take a look at Washington street as a business district. Lots of vacanacies. Businesses already struggle to make it there. While Bead Works and Taste of Holland manage to stay in business without making a peep (and god only knows how they do it), the street has a long history with bars and nightclubs opening with a bang and going out with a whimper. Beer Garden, closed. Coromandel, closed. Relish, closed. Governors Tap Room, closed. Caffeine, closed. Chocopologie, closed. Rattlesnake, closed. Loft, closed. Black Bear, closed. Shenanigans (same spot as Black Bear), closed. Oceana, closed.

Now consider what a change in the regulations might mean to prospective tenants–higher start up costs. Why choose Washington Street then? How does the City of Norwalk improve the commercial viability of Washington Street as Norwalk’s premier entertainment district while imposing more and more costs on business owners? Many are already throwing in the towel within one year. Is throwing the cost of noise buffering to the tenants going to attract business or keep business away? You may disagree with me, but I suspect the latter. This is why I suggested in my OP that IF the CC changes the code to make it more restrictive in terms of max decibel and hours, they should consider how to help offset the expense born by business owners. So I’m not opposed to a change. But I am opposed to anything that’s going to further kill business on Washington Street. And I don’t think this is all your doing, Howard. I am sympathetic. But there are many different ways to address these kinds of problems, and the most viable solutions are often those that include as many stakeholders as possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>