Dianne Bellamy-Small gets it. Watching the discussion unfold about the noise ordinance at Monday night’s Greensboro City Council meeting, it was apparent that she was the only member who really understood why the issue has sparked such outrage.
The disconnect between our elected officials and the people who stood before them at the last two meetings was so blatant that a handful of council members admitted their confusion. But Bellamy-Small laid out the situation succinctly.
“These folks feel insulted by us dealing with this noise ordinance,” she said. “I think this is a David-and-Goliath situation.”
The opponents of the noise ordinance certainly feel insulted, and it’s easy to understand why. These club owners, the target of the complaints, have built their own businesses, drawing countless people to downtown. They never asked for or received incentive money from the city, and this is their livelihood. For the patrons, it’s their creative outlet, their cultural scene, what they look forward to on the weekend to get them through the week.
Unlike the club owners, complainant Roy Carroll has investments all over town, has repeatedly received piles of money from the city and has recently requested another $5 million or so for a new development. His business partner, the mayor, put the item on the agenda.
The opponents of the noise ordinance certainly feel insulted, and it’s easy to understand why.
Opponents of the ordinance undoubtedly see this as a David and Goliath situation. A number of council members just couldn’t grasp this division.
Marikay Abuzuaiter, Nancy Vaughan and Nancy Hoffmann tried to align themselves with the opponents, repeatedly saying the new changes would actually be more favorable to clubs and their patrons by modifying the ordinance to be less restrictive — raising the permissible decibel level to 75 from the existing 65.
But they missed the point. The opponents ultimately weren’t asking for a less restrictive ordinance. They were fed up with the way the issue was brought forward; they felt Carroll was given preferential treatment by city staff and council and that the council’s vision for downtown was on a different trajectory from theirs.
District 5 representative Trudy Wade’s paternalistic tone exemplified this generational and cultural rift.
“Your perspective will change when you get older too, even if you don’t believe it,” she said.
Ironically, it was council members who seemed to have little understanding — despite their tours of downtown noise, nobody seemed clear on the exact decibel levels that were being voted on or where precisely it would be measured.
When two speakers said they moved here from Philadelphia in part because of the music scene and one said the ordinance made him want to leave, Zack Matheny questioned where he would go, suggesting Chapel Hill and Portland have more restrictive ordinances.
Any mention of Winston-Salem, which is working to create a downtown entertainment district exempt from their noise ordinance, was conspicuously absent.
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