Cibolo approves noise ordinance in downtown district – mySA

A noise ordinance approved by Cibolo City Council on July 26 reduces the decibel levels coming from its downtown bars and clubs. But no one expects the ordinance to be the end-all to the ongoing saga of music, businesses, 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 heard opinions from residents complaining about the amount of sound generated that can be heard inside their homes each weekend. Bar owners countered that they were not breaking any existing noise-level ordinances and failed to see why, with no infractions, they were being subjected to further scrutiny that may affect their businesses.

City staff proposed three options for council to consider: take no action; a “staff recommendation” of setting decibel levels to 75 dB from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 60 dB after 9 p.m. until 10 a.m.; and a “stakeholders’ 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 through numerous meetings held earlier this year involving residents and business owners.

The city 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. cutoff times 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 the noise complaints levied against the bars.

“This situation has never truly been about noise reduction,” Williams told council during a public hearing on the issue. “Close to half of all complaints identified were from one person. In the majority of those instances, 1911 Cigars was within (decibel level) compliance.”

Many of the other complaints, she said, “were unfounded situations, where we were either not playing music or were actually closed.”

At what point, 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 mitigating action shall you or the police take to ensure that businesses, such as ours, are not targeted by a select few residents?

“When does it move from being a simple right of a citizen to report complaints to the police, into a case of harassment, where citizens are allowed to weaponize the police against businesses who are just trying to thrive in an already struggling economy?” she added.

Williams was the first of many to say none of three options before council will make a difference in the sound level dispute.

“The businesses are already averaging decibel levels below the new ordinance suggested levels,” she said, referring to charts showing consistent 60-65 and 70-75-decibel sound levels from the downtown bars.

Williams said the number of complaints generated against 1911 Cigars, an African-American-owned business that caters largely to a Black clientele, borders not on noise and decibels, but on race.

Jayme Mathis, co-owner of Kindling Texas Kitchen and 1908 House of Wine in Cibolo, said he felt any council action would fall short without addressing the issue of bass. He alleged the 1911 Cigars bar was being targeted for reasons other than simply noise infractions.

When Old Main Ice House, the first bar/club in the downtown area, opened in 2015 the city had no noise ordinance, so one was created. Complaints of the excessive sound stopped, he said. But once 1911 Cigars opened in 2019 and, following the pandemic, reopened to patrons, “the noise complaints are back, because of a limited amount of residents in a particular area.”

Mathis said none of the noise complaints or decibel-level monitoring matters, as “all of the windows rattling, of vibration, that comes from bass,” he said. “That bass music will not be addressed in lowering the decibel level, even below a conversation. Bass is not being addressed in the ordinance proposed this evening whatsoever.”

The majority of the complaints, Mathis said, come within one-to-two minutes of each other. “We realized it is a targeted area and I believe that person had set their alarm clock, because of the time those calls happened, each and every Friday and Saturday night,” he added.

Reference was made by a speaker to 60 complaints levied against the 1911 Cigars location. Of the 60 mentioned, 27 were unfounded, according to a slide presentation. The remaining 33 were within the acceptable decibel range.

Greg Williams, 1911 Cigars co-owner and CFO, asked why the agenda item even occurred if no violation was being reported.

“Why are we all here today discussing something that we know what the root cause is?” he said. “We’re wasting time, we’re wasting taxpayer dollars. One to two people have raised the alarm. If you take those two complainants away from 1911 Cigars, we look like 1908, we look like Noble (The Nobel Group venue), we look like Nick’s.

“Two people hijacking this whole entire deal, and for what? It’s obvious, it’s not about sound,” he said. “We created a buffer zone behind our property … and we’re directing sound away from our (neighbors). I’m just frustrated about how long this has taken, and the solution you’re going to vote on is not going to solve the issue.”

Adam Savoy, a Lamar Street resident, said he understands the complaints because he hears it from his home.

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

He said he has seen neighbors move “and attempt to get change in place. But it didn’t happen. They left.”

Savoy said a specific neighbor “told me very specifically, ‘I don’t have it in me to deal with this fight,’” he said. “This isn’t just the people calling in making false complaints. I shouldn’t have to wait until 11:20 p.m. to go to bed, just to listen to the noise.”

He said he saw very little difference between the staff and shareholder recommendations. “I don’t know. Take your pick. I’m OK either way.

“In my house, personally? My house is for sale, I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’ve been here for years. I want to be part of this community … but why, why do it?”

He alluded to Cibolo’s slogan of “The City Of Choice” in conclusion.

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

Council spent 20 minutes discussing decibel levels, a need to reign in false calls, and the need to find a way to deal with 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.

jflinn@express-news.net

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