|At the Board of Directors meeting on April 27, 2016, a review of the special event permit process was presented. Staff was requested to return to the Board with potential guidelines for the use of amplified sound in the parks for special events.
Amplified sound for events under a special event permit is different from noise/sound in the park. Township Order 019-09 (existing policy) addresses noise/sound in the park for general park use and states the following:
Except in the case of Special Events produced by or permitted by the Township, it shall be unlawful for any person to use, operate or allow to be used or operated any device for the production of Amplified Sound in such a manner as to disturb the peace, quiet, comfort or enjoyment of persons within any Park. The operation of any such Amplified Sound device in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of one hundred feet (100’) or more from the source of the sound shall constitute a violation. For the sound to be “plainly audible” words or phrases need not be distinguishable, and bass reverberations are sufficient. This prohibition may be waived pursuant to a Special Event permit issued by the President or his designee if the event normally includes sound production, such as concerts, fireworks displays or similar events”
Township Order 019-09 provides background information to individuals or groups using a park and having amplified sound, without a Special Event Permit. The President or his designee has the ability to issue a special event permit which includes amplified sound, however there are no guidelines for this in the Park Rules or the Special Event Policies and Procedures.
While the impetus behind the need for amplified sound guidelines is to manage the sound levels in the park for bands, concerts and other live performances there is the potential for unintended consequences. Amplified sound is more than a concert in the park. It includes residents using a “boom box" for background sound at a party, public address systems used for making announcements or giving instructions for an exercise program or a person playing an amplified guitar for a small reception.
The "new" guidelines below are written with consideration for both residents who live around the parks and community members who desire to use their parks for special events. Sound is measured by decibels. Decibel levels or dB is a logarithmic unit used to measure the intensity of sound by comparing it with a given level on a logarithmic scale. They are viewed as a relative gain of one level versus another level or absolute logaritmic scale level; it is not a linear unit of measurement. 85dB was identified as the threshold standard for this policy as this is the dB level identified in the Texas Penal Code as a level which disturbs the peace or at which the noise level is by law deemed a nuisance (§ 42.01. DISORDERLY CONDUCT.) Attached is an illustrative guide to assist in understanding the decibel levels occurring daily: 60dB correlates to normal conversation, 85 dB = busy city traffic and 105 dB is equal to a rock concert (Attachment A).
The following guidelines are included in the proposed changes to the Special Event Policies and Procedures which will be presented for Board consideration in a separate item:
Montgomery and Harris Counties have noise ordinances which prohibit excessive noise. The Woodlands Township Order 019-09 allows Amplified Sound pursuant only to a Special Event permit. Due to the nature of events and the fact that the majority of community facilities built near, adjacent to or in close proximity to residential areas, the following amplified sound policy has been implemented.
Additionally, The Woodlands Covenants prohibits any activity which may be an annoyance or a nuisance to surrounding Owners or Residents. It is the sole responsibility of the event organizer to familiarize themselves with these noise restrictions and ensure the event is in compliance.
- Town Green Park/Riva Row Park-8 hours maximum of amplified sound is permitted for live continuous music. Amplified sound/recorded music cannot be used earlier than 1 hour after sunrise and no later 3 hours after sunset of the day of the permit which shall not exceed past 11 pm, unless there is a Pavilion Concert then the cut off time will be 7 pm. Furthermore, if there is no Pavilion Concert scheduled within 60 days prior to the event, the time may be extended to 11 pm.
- Waterway Square and other Town Center Parks- 8 hours maximum of amplified sound is permitted for live continuous music. Amplified sound cannot be used earlier than 1 hour after sunrise and no later 3 hours after sunset of the day of the permit which shall not exceed past 11 pm.
- All Other Parks (Including Northshore and Rob Fleming)- -3 hours maximum of amplified sound is permitted for live continuous music. Amplified sound cannot be used earlier than 1 hour after sunrise and no later 2 hours after sunset of the day of the permit which shall not exceed past 9 pm for all parks with the exception of Rob Fleming whose cut off is 10:30 pm.
- No person shall conduct, permit, or allow any amplified sound source to produce a sound discernible at any location beyond the property lines of the property on which the sound is being generated that when measured exceeds 85db during the permitted amplified sound time period
- Announcements over a speaker system are not included as part of the hour limit on amplified sound but shall be included in the window of time identified.
From an operational perspective, it should be noted that multiple special event permits with amplified sound could be issued for the same day. For example, Northshore Park has two pavilions plus the stage, thus there could be a Special Event Permit issued for Pavilion A from 11:00 to 1:00 and another Permit issued from 4:00 to 7:00 pm for Pavilion B. A second example of this would be at Rob Fleming Park, where there could be a morning event and an evening event, which is currently not uncommon.