Loud parties interrupt Rockville’s usual calm and officials urged to toughen noise ordinances – St George News
ST. GEORGE- Rockville is known for its beauty and peaceful charm. But a rise in loud outdoor parties and their potential health hazard has some Rockville residents urging authorities to tighten the city’s noise ordinances.
Rockville Commission Chair Jane Brennan said she is holding a public hearing on Tuesday, June 12 to gather community input. Proposed changes to the ordinance are listed on the city’s website.
“Loud, uncontrolled noise affects many Rockville residents,” said longtime resident Michael Behling.. “The current noise ordinance relating to the creation of a nuisance is entirely subjective and not based on science. It leaves out long periods when noise can occur at unlimited levels, does not define loud noise, and depends on the rater as to what is considered excessive. The current ordinance does not deter individuals who come to our area from becoming violent and creating chaos.
“While I can’t say there are more parties this year than in years past, there has been an increase in reports from neighbors and this proposed change in ordinance hopefully addresses the concerns of our neighbours,” Brennan said.
Behling said he has been tracking the number of outdoor events in Rockville that have increased. He said in 2020 he only heard one loud party, then in 2021 he counted 13 loud events. And as of July 3, 2022, Behling has recorded 18 of these types of events. He said there were more parties in 2020 but those gatherings weren’t a problem as they have been since then. In 2020, a more aggressive management team hired by a landowner helped control noise levels on rented properties. Behling speculated that the number of parties could grow from 18 to 40 by the end of the year.
Behling used a real-time sound level meter to measure noise. The numbers showed high sound levels.
“What’s most noticeable are the squeals, the squeals and the bass level,” Behling said. “Recent parties often start around 8 p.m. and end around 10:30 p.m.; some left at 3am”
He measured sound levels on his property with expensive calibrated and certified instruments that integrate and average the data, show the loud noise would exceed Springdale and many other county and city ordinances across the country. Behling said he also wrote witness statements reaffirming his observations of the Rockville-area parties.
“The noise is audible from Grafton Road, Grafton at Hall Valve and Grafton 14-inch Pipeline, Two Feathers Ranch, Lewis, Cox, Sanchez and my property,” Behling said. “And the properties west of me and the property that once belonged to Sherry Teresa.”
While Behling is glad Rockville has a strong ordinance, he wishes they would put more teeth into it to protect residents’ property and because it’s a potential health risk. Behling’s career has been as an industrial hygienist for the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Defense (DOD). He has completed at least a thousand noise surveys and is well versed in noise assessment and control.
His experience includes rating parties in Las Vegas clubs, and most parties have exceeded OSHA and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) standards. Clubs had to implement hearing conservation programs, engineering and administrative controls, permissible exposure limit, hearing testing and training. It was common to measure levels at the source, causing permanent hearing loss within an hour.
“I suspect some of the levels at parties and events here are at those levels and those at the source may have suffered permanent hearing loss,” Behling said. “We’re not just talking about a nuisance, but a health hazard to employees, revelers, contractors and some nearby residents.”
Landowners East, North, and West of Behling provide power, restrooms, infrastructure, land, and consulting/management crews. Property managers ensure participants do not damage property. Promoters set up an event sub-contract for the services of DJs, bands, lights, dance floors, transport, etc. But he said there was little noticeable security at those parties to keep the noise level down to healthy levels.
Behling states that the DJs and bands are the problem and create the party atmosphere by making people shout, shout, sing and choose the type of music, some with lots of bass.
As well as revising the noise control ordinance, he is urging the planning commission to establish a new rule that allows DJs and bands to do business in town. He also wants Rockville to develop and implement a disciplinary policy.
“If a lot of noise complaints are occurring, consider some type of action to change their behavior,” he said.
Behling is also concerned about possible drug use at these events. He said the parties, sometimes called raves, could take place at any time of the day or night.
“If you sit there listening to them like I do day in and day out, and I listen to the DJs, they have a PA system, and they goad the party people, make them scream, make them scream, make them sing. They bring out all that emotion,” Behling said. “These evenings are intense. It’s not your father’s birthday. Some of these people are so into it that I wondered if they were on drugs.
Although most of the people who attend these parties are law-abiding, he warned that some people are not.
“Some of the parties in my area have been rave-type. I can’t prove illegal drug use because ravers take drugs off-site and come to parties,” Behling said. there are no raves here, but I couldn’t convince them to attend, so how do they actually know?
In a university study from Arizona, Behling cited, raves are defined and a section on violence at these parties is presented. The study also indicates that the main concerns related to raves for the police are:
- Drug overdoses and associated medical risks.
- Drug trafficking and the potential for violence associated with it
- Noise (from rave music, crowds and traffic).
- Driving under the influence.
- Traffic control and parking congestion.
- Police must balance some public pressure to shut down raves completely and protect young people from harm without completely alienating them.
Behling said a phased noise ordinance and other party regulations could discourage and deter promoters and the presence of such individuals.
Additionally, trespassing and vandalism are increasingly common on his property due to the parties. The destruction caused cost him almost $1,000 in damage to his machinery, garden hoses, etc.
“We had to completely change our way of life with a locked door, which has to be manually opened and closed for us and our visitors to enter and exit,” Behling said. “We had to spend hundreds of dollars on safety equipment and time. We welcome any order that addresses the problem and lessens its impact on us.
Some of the damage to Behling’s property includes debris dumped into his tractor’s fuel tanks. It took several hours to clean the inside of the tanks. Also, a nearby landowner contractor recently smashed his sign and it was buried in a concrete footing.
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