Shreveport, Louisiana, was set ablaze with controversy today as Mayor Tom Arceneaux delivered a sonic shockwave to the city’s downtown noise predicament. In a surprising move, the mayor has chosen to wield his veto power against a pair of ordinances recently passed by the Shreveport City Council, marking a significant twist in the ongoing saga of addressing the city’s noise ordinance.
The clamor around downtown Shreveport’s noise troubles has crescendoed in recent times, coinciding with a disturbing surge in violence captured and shared in online videos, amplifying the urgency of the matter.
In a formal address to the council, Mayor Arceneaux cited Section 4.21 of the City Charter, invoking his disapproval of both Ordinance 110 and Ordinance 111 of 2023, and thereby setting in motion the reversal of these legislations. He emphasized the primary intent behind Ordinance 110 and its companion, Ordinance 111, which was to rein in excessive noise generated by amplified sound. However, in the mayor’s perspective, the standards sanctioned by the City Council not only failed to alleviate the noise problem but, in his opinion, exacerbated it.
The mayor’s contention finds roots in Louisiana law, founded on principles deeply rooted in Roman law, where the exercise of individual and business rights should not infringe upon the enjoyment of others’ rights. These principles, enshrined in the Louisiana Civil Code, form the bedrock of noise regulations. The right to reside in one’s abode without enduring unwanted amplified sound or other disruptions is considered a fundamental right. According to Mayor Arceneaux, the permitted sound levels under Ordinance 110, clocking in at 85 decibels, effectively trample upon this right. Such noise levels, outside the property generating the sound, invade the sanctity of one’s home, leading to an insufferable intrusion.
Mayor Arceneaux strongly advocates for a balanced policy that harmonizes the need for downtown entertainment with the viability of local businesses and the quality of life for residents. However, he asserts that Ordinance 110 does not strike this equilibrium, but rather undermines the flourishing of both businesses and the downtown residential community.
One of the mayor’s key objections to Ordinance 110 is its potential to extend the noise problem beyond downtown. In fact, it could allow clubs and restaurants, not only in the downtown area but also in neighborhoods across the city, to project sounds of up to 85 decibels into nearby residences. Such noise levels can carry clearly and loudly over several city blocks, exposing people to sounds they did not consent to and may not want to endure.
To illustrate the intensity of the issue, Mayor Arceneaux recounted his personal experience of being in the Entertainment District during late hours, where he found the music and commentary emanating from patio premises to be so deafening that it hindered ordinary conversation, even at a considerable distance from the source. Moreover, the incessant nature of the loud sounds only compounded the issue.
From the mayor’s perspective, a more sensible approach would restrict off-premise sound to the maximum levels outlined in an unpassed Amendment No. 1 to the original draft of Ordinance 110. This would imply maximum sound levels of 70 decibels between 7:00 a.m. and 1:59 a.m. and 60 decibels between 2:00 a.m. and 6:59 a.m. for properly permitted establishments in the Entertainment District. Such levels are a considerable reduction from the previously sanctioned 85 decibels.
Mayor Arceneaux substantiated his argument by citing the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlighting that prolonged exposure to sounds at or above 70 decibels could lead to hearing loss. To address the issue, the mayor suggested that club owners and stakeholders could invest in sound curtains, barriers, speaker placement, phase cancellation equipment, or Plexiglas shields to contain patio sounds within their premises and respect their neighbors.
In his decision to veto Ordinances 110 and 111, Mayor Arceneaux conducted an exhaustive review of the existing noise ordinance in Chapter 58 of the City’s Code of Ordinances. His examination led him to conclude that the existing noise restrictions were more favorable than what Ordinance 110 offered. He also emphasized the enforceability of the existing ordinance to safeguard neighbors from unwanted noise.
Moreover, the mayor highlighted that the patio speakers he encountered downtown qualified as “significant noise generators” within the existing ordinance’s parameters, projecting noise levels exceeding the existing limits on adjacent properties. This necessitates establishments operating such equipment to have an approved noise management plan to limit noise to levels in compliance with the current ordinance, which generally mandates 65 decibels or less at a property line.
While Mayor Arceneaux appreciated certain administrative improvements in the proposed ordinances compared to the existing ones, the substantial increase in permitted noise levels became the Achilles’ heel, prompting his veto. He expressed support for an ordinance that would provide sound restrictions aligned with the unpassed Amendment No. 1 to Ordinance 110.
Conclusively, the mayor pledged to enforce the existing ordinance as written until a more reasonable ordinance can be established, seeking to strike a harmonious balance between downtown entertainment, business viability, and residential serenity.