New Noise Ordinance in Final Stages — We Hope

Everybody agrees that noise – too much noise – seriously affects quality of life in the French Quarter. And just about everybody agrees that the present Noise Ordinance, a complicated and difficult piece of legislation regulating almost every sound heard in public spaces by setting decibel limits, hours, and bullhorns, needs work. For some years, ideas have circulated for a new regime that balances support for entertainment businesses, New Orleans’ music traditions, and performers while respecting the right of citizens to the quiet enjoyment of their lives.

A City-sponsored Task Force, led by the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs chief Scott Hutcheson, has heard from many stakeholders and elaborated a set of ideas that were turned over to Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer’s office to be turned into draft legislation. Her Legislative Director, Nicole Webre, has been working valiantly to try to reconcile conflicting ideas – residents’ ideas on acceptable sound may not always square with those of Bourbon Street music emporiums or street musicians – with a view to introducing an ordinance in time for public hearings and comment with passage before the Council takes up the budget in November.

Although French Quarter Citizens and other French Quarter organizations were inexplicably not invited to participate on the City’s Task Force, an informal task force has submitted recommendations to the current draft posted on Councilmember Palmer’s website. These proposed changes include establishing a single administrator, responsible to the Mayor, Council, and public and accountable for all aspects of the program; regular reporting to the Council and public; making 85 decibels the upper permitted limit (Federal OSHA requires ear protection for employees exposed to higher levels over the work day); establishing more objective standards for sound measurement; and other provisions aimed at diminishing the impact of sounds disturbing residential enjoyment.