HALLOWELL — The City Council approved a new ordinance Monday that will give the city flexibility to allow outdoor music past 9 p.m. during city-sanctioned or other public events.

It also agreed to take a closer look at the ordinance to examine whether the noise levels are sufficient and how it can be better enforced.

The permissible noise levels in the downtown business district have not changed under the amended ordinance. Noise levels cannot exceed 60 decibels between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and 50 decibels between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Normal conversation and background music average 60 decibels, according to webmd.com.

The amended ordinance allows for music on Old Hallowell Day weekend until 1 a.m. and gives the city flexibility to consider other outdoor music requests on a case-by-case basis.

Former Councilor Kate DuFour, the chairwoman of the Ordinance Rewrite Committee, said the committee recommends reviewing the noise ordinance because it isn’t working and isn’t currently enforceable. She said the council should appoint a special committee to look at the ordinance, current noise levels and enforcement.

To illustrate the fact that noise levels under the current ordinance are insufficient, Councilor George LaPointe used an app on his phone that pegged Dufour’s voice at 84 decibels, well over the level allowed under the ordinance.

“I think we need to rip the Band-Aid off and deal with it,” Dufour said.

John Merrill, who owns a building next to the Quarry Tap Room and its outdoor space, which often hosts outdoor music performances, said the noise ordinance hasn’t been enforced. He expressed concern last year during the Quarry Tap Room’s Planning Board and City Council review process about what excess noise could mean to his tenants and was there again Monday to voice his concerns.

His specific complaints were directed at the Quarry, and he said recently there were two nights where music was clearly above the noise levels permitted under the ordinance. He said the Quarry’s owners are violating the ordinance intentionally, because the speakers they set up outside are going to produce sounds well above the allowable level.

“They are doing it deliberately and getting away with it because nobody has forced them to change their behavior,” Merrill said. “They are flaunting the noise ordinance right and left, and you have plenty of ways to pressure them into following the ordinance.”

Councilor Lynn Irish, who owns a quilt store across from the Quarry and lives downtown, said customers came into her store complaining about noise coming from the Quarry. She said the owners of the popular restaurant have been receptive when she’s spoken with them.

Co-owner Chris Vallee did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Chelsea Town Manager Scott Tilton submitted a letter to the mayor and council to go on record with the town’s opposition to the amended ordinance. He stated in the letter that Chelsea residents across the Kennebec River have contacted him about allowing increased decibel levels and extending the operating hours of outdoor functions.

Merrill has argued that because the Quarry’s outdoor space is between two brick buildings, the sound would be magnified, affecting not only people on both sides of the space but also those across the street. He also said that the music at the Quarry during Old Hallowell Day last year was twice as loud as anywhere else.

Rudy said the city has to balance the need for economic development opportunities for downtown businesses with the right of residents to have peaceful enjoyment of their property.

In other council business, Rudy gave the council an update on the bidding process for the roadwork and infrastructure repairs at Stevens Commons. Funding for the planned work — about $600,000 — was a part of the $2.36 million bond package that voters approved overwhelmingly in April. As part of the agreement, Morrill will turn over ownership of the roads to the city of Hallowell, but he’ll remain involved in the bidding process and will help oversee the work done on the property.

LaPointe, the chairman of the finance committee, said the committee is putting the finishing touches on the budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, and that he and Rudy hope the council can vote on it during next month’s meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, Burt Truman was named the Citizen of the Year by the Old Hallowell Day Committee; and Rose Warren, a Hall-Dale High School graduate and incoming freshman at Bowdoin College, received the Barry S. Timson Community Service Award. Committee chairwoman Jane Orbeton said both will march in the Old Hallowell Day parade, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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