Des Moines close to passing noise ordinance for outdoor concerts

DES MOINES, Iowa - Backers of live music are concerned that a new noise ordinance being considered by the Des Moines City Council could hurt the city's music scene.

The Des Moines Register last week quoted a member of the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition as saying that adding restrictions would be counterproductive to what the group is trying to do because it's already hard enough to get musicians to stop in Iowa.

A new outdoor music venue at the city's Water Works Park drew a major event, the "515 Alive Music Festival" this summer. That show, along with concerts at Brenton Skating Park, have drawn numerous noise complaints.

The city council has since formulated a process for determining noise limits that it will likely finalize in December.

SuAnn Donovan with Des Moines Neighborhood Inspections says the city has considered the interests of the music industry and concert-goers. "The issue we're dealing with is how to get the correct balance between promoters and music venues and the people that want to go and see live music, and having them have an enjoyable experience, while not detracting from the experience that people have in their own homes," said Donovan.

Acceptable noise levels have been established for neighborhoods surrounding Water Works Park ) and Brenton Skating Plaza. Those levels are 90 decibels at Brenton Skating Plaza, which is near downtown apartments, and a slightly lower 85 decibels at Water Works Park, which has residential neighborhoods close by.

The finalized policy will include sound limits at other venues such as Simon Estes Amphitheater and Captain Roy's.

Donovan says the same mathematical model will be used to determine appropriate sound levels coming from each outdoor live concert location. "So it's really tailored on individual venues, and what works best for that venue," Donovan said.

The December vote planned for the new noise ordinance will include one to two out of six city councilors who may not be in city government moving forward. Ward II Councilor Linda Westergaard is in a run-off election next month for her seat. A vacated at-large seat is also in a runoff.

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