Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Another letter to Mayor Price and the Fort Worth Council. Are THEY listening?
Fort Worth Mayor and City Council
I am strongly opposed to the "new" proposed Sound Ordinance.
The reasons I am opposed to this Ordinance approval starts with it being a naive approach to a problem that will create more problems than it can possibly solve. The resources used to support this proposal is also from a highly questionably source.
I will start with the questionably source, or the so-called expert on sound from which much of the advice is based. It comes from the City's prior sound expert Mr. Don Behrens, who guided the City in writing the current Gas Drilling Ordinance. For those who may have forgotten the history on this matter, Mr. Behrens was hired by the City to be it's sound expert for the Natural Gas Drilling Task Force in 2008. Prior to that, he was used as the sound expert for the original Gas Drilling Task Force. It is my understanding he was recommended and supplied at no cost to the City by the Gas Drilling Industry for the first Task Force. This would appear to be a conflict of interest, but he was used anyway. Later, Mr. Behrens was selected and paid to advise the City in writing the noise ordinance for the second Task Force, even though he also owned the company that did the sound studies for Chesapeake Energy and supplied the reports required for gas well applications. His company also did the follow up sound testing for any noise complaints to the City on these same wells. In addition, his company was one of only a few companies at the time that could supply the sound blankets to the gas drillers for noise reduction. All of this would appear to be one huge conflict of interest that was allowed to take place with the help of this City.
It is my opinion that Mr. Behrens provided biased information that should not be relied on for any information related to sound studies including this one.
This Ordinance proposes the City to a adopt a policy of allowing extremely high sound levels as a back up to what the current Noise Ordinance already states. The problem as I see it would be that in reality, the Police would fall back on the sound levels written in the proposed Ordinance. I had experience with this exact same problem. The Officer came to the complaint and found the noise was unreasonable, as stated in his report, but the Police Supervisor overruled the complaint and used the Texas State Statue that allows levels of 85db. The supervisor closed the complaint and found no wrongdoing.
I would ask you to consider this, if you were the Officer and had a noise complaint that seemed unreasonable, but the City's own (proposed) Ordinance allowed a sound level of 60db at nighttime, what would you do? I believe that answer would be to look at the allowable sound level determined by the City Ordinance, regardless of the current excessive noise level (in your opinion) for the time and place. That action would be both logical and expedient. It might not be the correct action, but it would be much safer politically for the Officer.
In most instances, the Police Officers will not have a sound meter in their squad car and the one's who do would probably not be available until the next day or later, much the same as in my experience.
The proponent of this document appears to not fully understand the nature of sound, because Section (c) #2, it states, "All measurement levels will be inclusive of any ambient noise that exists at the time of the measurement."
To the best of my knowledge, when sound is measured, it cannot be measured without the ambient noise being inclusive. This phrase also contradicts the prior requirements of the readings being taken using the "A" scale. The phrase using inclusive would have to include all ambient sound and that would include all frequencies as well. The "A" scale excludes certain frequencies by definition.
I requested each of the Council to take a sound meter to their home in order to experience the various sound levels proposed, but I will assume the Council had more important issues to deal with, so I will provide a few examples why the proposed ordinance is flawed. The Staff recommendation for a residential nighttime level is 60 db. A neighbor's running lawnmower in their yard will register approximately 60 db or so at your house. The noise may be temporary in nature, but do you want that noise to be OK at 3:00 in the morning? Remember, many lots lines are very near an individual's house. Another example of what's wrong would be that talking in a normal conversation at your back fence could be a criminal offense. Should it be? In the City's own presentation they show conversation as 65db. The 65db exceeds the allowable in the proposed Ordinance of 60db at the property line.
Why would Fort Worth's proposed sound levels be so much higher than that of so many other quality Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Albuquerque, and Palo Alto, Ca? Could it be, because the recommendations come from Fort Worth's sound expert that may have had an agenda to protect other client's interests?
Some of these Ordinances allow noise levels nearly as high as proposed for Fort Worth, but consider the City. New York City is a very noisy City, yet it's levels over-all are lower. Do we really need our City to be like that?
Look at some these other respected Cities Ordinances and compare them to this rather simplistic and ineffective proposed Ordinance for Fort Worth.
Posted by The Star-Telegraph at Tuesday, May 01, 2012