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Silence of the bands: Could proposed noise ordinance changes cripple Charlotte's music scene? 

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If the proposed changes to the ordinance were to go through, Settle said the impact would be detrimental. "I don't charge at the door for my music. I see it as a stepping stone for [musicians] to get to play at a bigger venue," Settle said. "It would be detrimental to the scene to not have that platform. We also hold a lot of fundraisers for charities that we wouldn't be able to hold. If there are 550 restaurants in town, then maybe there are 50 other venues like mine. Think about how much the scene and economy will be losing. It would ruin this town."

What's next?

Kinsey recently told the NoDa Neighborhood Association that "the Council never approves on first glance, so the final ordinance probably won't look like the initial proposal." Though not likely, the fact that it could, if passed on to the Council and approved, concerns a lot of people. It was noted at the February committee meeting that some community groups are pushing for a resolution to the problem before the warmer weather of spring comes to town. At this point, it's highly unlikely the Council would simply drop the issue since it's already been determined that the current ordinance is not completely enforceable. Attorneys and committee members acknowledge that the proposed changes aren't perfect, and they're open to suggestions.

The next meeting of the Community Safety Committee is planned for March 21 at 3 p.m. At that meeting, public comments will be taken for a brief period before the committee discusses the ordinance changes further. Cannon could not be reached for further comment on what will take place at the meeting.

If changes are agreed upon, they will be passed on to the City Council, who could discuss the matter at its March 28 meeting. The committee might also take more time to figure out what it wants to do before sending it on to the Council.

"I don't know for sure, but I suspect that at the meeting on the 21st, we're going to share with [the committee] some of what we've heard and learned and provide them with some additional options," Hagemann said. "I don't know if we're going to draft proposed options or if it's going to be more conceptual."

Save Charlotte Music plans to attend the meeting and voice its opinions on the matter, in addition to offering proposed changes of its own that might satisfy all parties.

Some people at the February NoDa Neighborhood Association Meeting suggested limiting outdoor amplified music by hours of the day — though McCarley noted what works for NoDa might not work for Elizabeth or another neighborhood. Another proposal suggested having variances for different neighborhoods so each area would have its own set of rules. Hagemann said that while this option seems to be viable in some ways, it also brings up the question of where one neighborhood starts or where another one ends and who would be responsible for drawing those lines and deciding the rules. Another idea is to have a "repetitive complaint clause" attached to the current ordinance where repeat offenders would suffer fines or loss of permit privileges.

"What happens when a neighborhood transitions into something that it isn't today?" Hagemann also noted. "There's gotta be a limit to how many sets of rules we have. I think Councilwoman Kinsey is open to other ideas, but we haven't been instructed to draft anything up at this point." He added that they will keep the decibel limits intact so they can fall back on them in case someone finds a "loophole."

"I think when the music community first got a hold of this, there was some misinformation out there," Hagemann said. "I think we're now all understanding what is being proposed and what's trying to be done."

This much is clear: When McCarley asked the folks at the Noda Neighborhood Meeting for a show of hands of how many people in attendance were in favor of the proposed ordinance changes, not one hand was raised. Instead, people commented that live music is a "fabric of the neighborhood" and a reason quite a few people have moved to the area. "It takes away one thing, but then you have to wonder what's next," Zach McNabb, co-owner of the Neighborhood Theatre, said at a recent Save Charlotte Music meeting.

There is no perfect solution to the problem — residents, music lovers or businesses are sure to lose out in one way or another when the changes are finally put in the books. Just as Charlotte's neighborhoods are diverse, so is the area's music scene. A blanket ordinance covering the entire city might not only limit the sound, but stifle the creativity and blossoming local music scene that's finally getting national attention.


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