During its last meeting, the Cedar Park City Council adopted new noise regulations that limit the level of sound both residential and nonresidential properties are allowed to generate.
Last spring, city staff performed a noise assessment study after Lone Star Grille & Amphitheater visited the council to request a special exception to exceed the city’s noise regulations for their concert series.
“I don’t know that I’ve been out of compliance in the old ordinance or new ordinance,” Lone Star Grille owner Rick Redmond told the council in April of 2016. “It’s taken me two years but we’re starting to get larger acts. The more people you have the bigger the acoustics have to be.”
Redmond wanted Lone Star Grille to have the ability to increase their nighttime sound levels from 70 to 85 decibels. However, residents spoke out against this exception, saying they were already disturbed by current standards and the council voted against the restaurant’s request.
This scenario caused the city to measure sound in certain areas around the city.
They also examined ordinances in other cities. A sound consultant recommended enforcing stricter noise regulations after gathering data.
According to Sam Roberts, an assistant city manager in Cedar Park, decibel measurements were taken at Lone Star Grille’s property line and at two locations in the Cedar Park Town Center.
Roberts said a sound consultant from Dickensheets Design Associates took measurements at the three locations when no music was playing at Lone Star Grille and also during a concert. Measurements were taken with two different kinds of decibel measurements. One measures mid- and high-frequency sounds, or “A decibels,” and the other measures low frequency sounds, or bass noises, called “C decibels.” According to Roberts, C decibels are usually where the noise complaints are derived from.
Typically when a noise complaint is reported in Cedar Park, the measurement is taken at the location where the complaint was filed. Under the updated ordinance, these complaints will now be taken at the source of the sound’s property line. This change will create a 20-25 decibel drop.
The city’s previous ordinance allowed for 85 decibels during the day and 70 decibels at night, with night being defined as the period between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Under the newly adopted ordinance, the decibel limits for nonresidential properties are 75 A decibels and 85 C decibels during the daytime hours of 7 a.m.-10 p.m. and 65 A decibels and 75 C decibels during the nighttime hours.
For residential properties, the decibel limit would be 70 A decibels and 80 C decibels during daytime hours and 50 A decibels and 60 C decibels during nighttime hours.
Redmond asked the council to think carefully about this choice as he said he has measured decibel levels of more than 65 decibels at his property line when customers talk in the outdoor area of his restaurant. The new regulations mean will lose customers and bands.
The council noted that Lone Star Grille was Cedar Park’s main outdoor live music venue and discussed what implications this decision could have on other music venues who could decide whether or not to open in Cedar Park in the future. They also discussed how it could affect residents.
“This isn’t just about Cedar Park Town Center and Lone Star Grille,” Place 6 Council member Kristyne Bollier said. “I’m trying to understand the other impacts beyond music venues or restaurants.”
After their discussion, they decided to grant a daytime extension until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays for nonresidential properties.
They will observe how these new regulations are working and are open to revisiting the topic in the future.