Special Business District recommends loosening downtown noise ordinance

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | 8:43 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — After asking Columbia City Council for more time to consider changes to the city noise ordinance, the Special Business District on Tuesday agreed on new recommendations for noise regulations downtown.

The noise ordinance regulates noise from businesses and homes in Columbia. Businesses downtown have asked the city to increase the area in which their noise can carry, so their patrons could be louder later into the night.

Ordinance changes

Columbia's noise ordinance prohibits noise that can be heard from 50 feet away between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The Special Business District recommended prohibiting noise at varying distances depending on the time.


  • 300 feet from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • 150 feet from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
  • 50 feet  from 1:30 to 7 a.m.


  • 300 feet from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • 150 feet from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
  • 50 feet from 1:30 to 7 a.m.

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At the Feb. 15 council meeting, changes to the noise ordinance were tabled after the district asked for more time to look at the proposed changes.

The proposed changes would increase the area in which noise can carry, and that area would decrease throughout the night, rather than immediately at 7 p.m.

The recommendations would also:

  • Define unacceptable noise as noise that is plainly audible or that unreasonably disturbs the peace
  • Allow live or amplified music until 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday and until 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
  • Place restrictions on car radios, boom boxes, car engines and "other non-commercial, unwanted noises"
  • Allow downtown occupants to make complaints
  • Allow police to enforce the ordinance even if no one reports a complaint
  • Emphasize that individuals — not businesses — should be cited for yelling or shouting; although the district does not want to change the yelling and shouting ordinance, which is separate from the noise ordinance
  • Recommend that special events obtain noise permits
  • Allow for an evaluation of the law's effectiveness after 12 months
  • Encourage negotiation between parties with a noise issue and between parties and police
  • Support other ways of reducing noise, such as an increase in public and private transportation to get rid of noisy crowds more quickly

Skip Walther, a member of the Special Business District board, had concerns about loosening the restrictions.

"If residents are already complaining, are we going in the wrong direction?" Walther said.

Chairwoman Mary Wilkerson said the recommendations should help businesses and residents because they combine looser standards with giving police officers the authority to issue tickets without needing a complaint.

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Greg Kespohl April 14, 2010 | 8:57 a.m.

If you choose to live downtown, you are aware of the possibility that there are bars and restaurants with outdoor patios and that Columbia is a college town. This is especially true if you DEVELOPED the building you live in. Think before you leap. There is no reason that businesses should have to suffer due to a resident's poor planning.

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