Outdoor music festivals and the Lucky 13 Starlight Cinema are now safe from being in conflict with the city's noise ordinance. The Eureka Springs City Council acted quickly in a special called meeting Monday night to approve amendments to the city's noise ordinance to address concerns about the legality of using amplified sound at outdoor events.
A week ago Mayor, Dani Joy and the council expressed concerns about previously overlooked conflicts in the city's noise ordinance that restricted sound amplification. Alderperson James DeVito said he was concerned about the impact on the upcoming Eureka Springs Blues Weekend that has music at different outdoor venues throughout the city. The blues events (see www.eurekaspringsblues.com), which start May 28, includes 70 performances in 15 venues with well-known artists such as Guitar Shorty and Joe Louis Walker.
Overlooking the obvious
"We have obviously overlooked something," DeVito said at the May 11 council meeting. "This deals with all festivals. We have an issue here that we need to resolve."
The council had considered asking the police not to enforce the noise ordinance until it was amended. But City Attorney Tim Weaver said it is never a good idea to ask police not to enforce a law, and instead recommended acting quickly to amend the ordinance.
At the earlier meeting, Alderperson Butch Berry said the ordinance made it appear the city didn't want special events.
"We do need special events as we are a tourist town, "Berry said. "I would like the festivals in the next few weeks to continue. This ordinance makes it look like we don't want special events."
Council declares emergency
At the special called meeting Monday night, the council approved first, second and third readings of amendments to the city's noise ordinance. Normally ordinances go through three readings at separate meetings of the council to give people time to respond with any concerns. But the council invoked an emergency clause allowing the second and third readings because of the economic harm that would have been caused if the festivals were disrupted.
The ordinance approved as amended reads:
"No person shall operate or allow to be operated any loudspeaker, sound amplifier or similar device from which sound emanates out-of-doors in a commercially zoned area, with the exception of those businesses having a restaurant license, permitted outdoor seating and an amplified sound permit or be an officially recognized festival or special event with a permit as authorized by Section 7.16.07. However, amplified sound emanating from permitted businesses will not exceed 65dB and 85dB for officially recognized festivals or special events as measured by a SLM."
'Lucky 13' is aptly named
At the council meeting May 11, a number of residents spoke about wanting the city to continue allowing the Lucky 13 Starlight Cinema that attracts both city residents and tourists. And at the council meeting April 27, Chris Rose spoke in favor of the cinema and presented the council with a petition signed by 81 people in support of continuing the event.
The council's next regularly scheduled meeting falls on Memorial Day, May 25. Because it is a holiday, the council will not meet again until June 8 at 6 p.m.