Buda City Council muffles music, adopts noise-restricting ordinance

Buda City Council all but pulled the plug on outdoor music when it adopted an ordinance on Dec. 3 reducing the decibel levels and times during which loud noise can be produced.

The ordinance limits the decibel levels that can be produced during the day to 63 in residential areas, 70 in commercial areas and 80 in industrial areas.

Decibel levels at night are stricter, with 56 the maximum in residential areas, 63 in commercial areas and 65 in industrial areas.

The commission recommended a version that would have implemented the reduced decibel levels at 9 p.m., but Councilwoman Angela Kennedy made a motion to amend the time on Fridays and Saturdays to 11:30 p.m.

On Sunday through Thursday, they begin at 9 p.m.

The quieter decibel levels are in place until 7 a.m.

Adoption of the ordinance was not unanimous, however.

Councilwoman Eileen Altmiller opposed the measure because she believed the original ordinance was soundly prepared.

She said it was reasonable for residents to expect quietness in their homes.

Buda, unlike Austin and San Marcos, is a quiet community, she said, suggesting live music should move indoors.

"This is not about live music," Altmiller said. "This about music that people can hear two blocks away—music that vibrates their walls."

Mayor Todd Ruge voted against passing the ordinance because he said it ought to be studied further.

With the assembly of a downtown stakeholder committee authorized earlier that night to advise the city as it develops a downtown master plan, Ruge said adopting such an ordinance without first receiving input from the committee would be "putting the cart before the horse."

However, many of his colleagues on the dais disagreed, as a motion he made to table the item died.

Buda's budding downtown nightlife has left many who live in the historic district concerned about the noise that is produced from such music venues as the Tavern on Main and Cleveland's and the possibility it might worsen should the area continue to grow.

But musicians and business owners feel the restrictions are too stringent.

Musicians and business owners said the restrictions are too stringent and could make certain speaking levels illegal.

Some of the 21 speakers during citizen comments—a majority of whom opposed the noise restrictions—raised their doubts about the expertise of the professionals consulted by the Planning and Zoning Commission as it drafted the ordinance.

"We really have not gotten a true expert in the field of sound engineering," said Julie Renfro, owner of Tavern on Main. "A lot of the numbers have been tossed around seat-of-the-pants it feels like."

Buda city administrators did not immediately respond to a question regarding when enforcement of the ordinance would begin.