Today's Question: Is downtown Columbia too noisy?

Friday, September 18, 2009 | 9:30 a.m. CDT; updated 4:59 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 18, 2009

COLUMBIA — Proposed changes to the city's noise ordinance would drastically loosen restrictions on loud music and yelling downtown, a plan that has met mixed opinions thus far.

The changes would make such noise illegal if it can be heard from 300 feet away and it disturbs the peace of a residence between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. During the day, the distance would extend to 500 feet from the property. The rule currently prohibits such noise 50 feet away at night and 100 feet during the day.

For instance, right now a resident could blame someone for disturbing the peace at night if he or she heard noise from 50 feet away, which would be about the distance across the street. Under the proposed change, that resident wouldn't be able to do so unless he or she was at least 300 feet away. Some residents, especially those who live in the area, might think that's too lenient on businesses and people downtown.

But proponents say residents should note that the downtown area isn't a typical neighborhood. City Manager Bill Watkins said the noise ordinance is something that "needed updating." The City Council won't discuss the ordinance until the Special Business District weighs in on the issue.

Although some people might think 50 feet is too harsh on businesses and people downtown, extending that to 300 feet could arguably take away recourse for residents who want to complain about the noise.

Would the proposed downtown noise ordinance loosen restrictions too much, or do changes need to be made?


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