Cibolo approves city center noise ordinance

ByShannon J. Cortes

Aug 3, 2022

A noise ordinance approved by Cibolo City Council on July 26 reduces decibel levels from its downtown bars and clubs. But no one expects the ordinance to be the end of the ongoing saga of music, business, neighbors and noise.

Council members talked about solutions to the problem of the city’s entertainment district and the volume of music or noise that can be heard in homes that surround the area.

Council has heard the views of residents complaining about the amount of generated sound that can be heard inside their homes each weekend. The bar owners countered that they were not in breach of any existing noise level ordinance and did not understand why, without a breach, they were subject to further scrutiny which could affect their business.

City staff presented council with three options: do nothing; a “staff recommendation” to set decibel levels at 75 dB from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 60 dB after 9 p.m. until 10 a.m.; and a “stakeholder recommendation” of 75dB from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and 65 dB after 10 p.m. until 10 a.m.

The three levels were generated by numerous meetings held earlier this year involving residents and business owners.

The city has created a permit whereby any music establishment can pay a $50 per year fee to extend its higher decibel levels to 11 p.m., one hour past the 10 p.m. cut-off time in both recommendations.

April Williams, a Cibolo resident and co-owner of 1911 Cigars on South Main Street near City Hall, said her establishment has borne the brunt of noise complaints filed against bars.

“This situation was never really about noise reduction,” Williams told the board during a public hearing on the matter. “Nearly half of all identified complaints came from a single person. In the majority of these cases, 1911 Cigars was compliant (at the decibel level). »

Many of the other complaints, she said, “were baseless situations, where we weren’t playing music or were actually shut down.”

When, she asked, does “concern” become “harassment?”

“While council, the city manager and (police) chief (Bryan) Hugghins have definitely worked to resolve the issue…my question to council today is what mitigation do you or the police need take to ensure that businesses, like ours, are not targeted by a select few residents?

“When does it go from a simple right of a citizen to complain to the police to a case of harassment, where citizens are allowed to arm the police against businesses that are simply trying to thrive in an economy already in trouble?” she added.

Williams was the first in a long line to say that none of the three options before the board made a difference in the noise level dispute.

“Companies already have average decibel levels below the levels suggested by the new ordinance,” she said, referring to charts showing consistent sound levels of 60-65 and 70-75 decibels in bars across the street. downtown.

Williams said the number of complaints generated against 1911 Cigars, an African-American-owned business that caters largely to a black clientele, isn’t bordering on noise and decibels, but race.

Jayme Mathis, co-owner of Kindling Texas Kitchen and 1908 House of Wine in Cibolo, said he believes any board action would fail without addressing the bass issue. He alleged that the 1911 Cigars bar was targeted for reasons other than simple noise violations.

When Old Main Ice House, the first downtown bar/club, opened in 2015, the city didn’t have a noise ordinance, so one was created. Complaints about excessive sound have ceased, he said. But once 1911 Cigars opened in 2019 and, in the wake of the pandemic, reopened to customers, “noise complaints returned, due to a limited number of residents in a particular area.”

Mathis said none of the complaints about noise or decibel level monitoring mattered because “all the windows banging, vibrations, coming from the bass,” he said. “This bass music will not be addressed by lowering the decibel level, even below conversation. Bass is not addressed at all in the proposed order tonight.

The majority of complaints, Mathis said, occur within a minute or two of each other. “We realized this was a targeted area and I believe this person had set their alarm clock, because of the time these calls were made, every Friday and Saturday night,” he said. -he adds.

A speaker referred to 60 complaints filed against the 1911 Cigars site. Of the 60 cited, 27 were unfounded, according to a slide show. The other 33 were within the acceptable decibel range.

Greg Williams, co-owner and chief financial officer of 1911 Cigars, questioned why the agenda item even took place if no violations were reported.

“Why are we all here today discussing something that we know what the root cause is?” he said. “We are wasting time, we are wasting taxpayers’ money. One or two people gave the alert. If you take those two complainers away from 1911 Cigars, we look like 1908, we look like Noble (the Nobel group site), we look like Nick.

“Two people are hijacking this whole affair, and for what? It’s obvious, it’s not about the sound,” he said. “We’ve created a buffer behind our property…and we’re directing the sound away from our (neighbors). I’m just frustrated with how long this took, and the solution you’re about to vote on won’t fix the problem. »

Lamar Street resident Adam Savoy said he understood the complaints because he heard them from his home.

“I never filed a complaint. But I suffered from having to listen to the noise,” Savoy said. “My concern is when I’m at home, in my residence, listening to excessive noise or sound, for me. And my family can’t enjoy our space.

He says he saw neighbors moving “and trying to change things. But that didn’t happen. They left.”

Savoy said one specific neighbor “told me very specifically, ‘I don’t have the strength to face this fight,'” he said. “It’s not just people who call to make bogus complaints. I shouldn’t wait until 11:20 p.m. to go to bed, just to listen to the noise.

He said he saw very little difference between staff recommendations and shareholder recommendations. “I don’t know. Take your pick. I’m fine anyway.

“At home, personally? My house is for sale, I’m ready to move in,” he said. “I have been here for years. I want to be part of this community… but why, why do it?

He alluded to Cibolo’s slogan “The city of choice” in conclusion.

“I don’t need to be here. I have a choice, the choice to go somewhere else, where I don’t have to hear the noise,” he concluded.

The Council spent 20 minutes discussing decibel levels, the need to reign in fake calls, and the need to find a way to manage bass levels. A motion to adopt the staff recommendation failed by a 4-3 vote. A subsequent motion to adopt the stakeholder recommendation with the one-hour permit fee in place was approved, 6-1.

[email protected]