Round Rock City Council voted 7-0 to revise the city’s noise ordinance March 14. This was the council’s second and final vote on the issue, following a first reading that resulted in a unanimous vote in favor of the changes Feb. 28.
Perhaps the biggest shift in the ordinance is that police will now measure noise levels at the property lines of bars and restaurants. Previously, law enforcement recorded these levels 200 feet away.
Downtown live music venues must now cap the sound level at 80 decibels—or about the intensity of a garbage disposal—between 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. This is a little higher than the former 75-decibel limit that was in place from 9 p.m.-7 a.m. under the former ordinance.
But this does not mean music can be louder. Noise that measures 75 decibels 200 feet from the property line—which was permitted under the previous version of the ordinance—measures 89 decibels at the property line, according to measurements taken by the city. In that same scenario, an 80-decibel reading at the property line—which is the maximum under the revised ordinance—measures 61 decibels 200 feet away.
At all other hours—outside of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday—the maximum noise level is now 60 decibels—which is equivalent to conversational speech. The downtown ambience averages about 55 decibels, said Brooks Bennett, Round Rock assistant city manager.
Other changes include a requirement for downtown outdoor music venues to apply for a permit. The city defines an outdoor music venue “as a commercial property where sound equipment is used to amplify sound that is: not fully enclosed by permanent, solid walls and a roof; or allowed to project out of an exterior doorway that is routinely opened.”
The amended ordinance takes effect April 15.
Should an outdoor music venue exceed the noise level, a ticket will be issued that carries a $500 fine, Bennett said. Should three or more violations occur within a year, the permit could be revoked for a year.
“There’s a balance, and we feel like we’ve got the right balance,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said. “Come April 15 it will be enforced.”