Is it music and fun, or just noise?

CAREY JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer

YOUNGSVILLE -- Town commissioners agreed to let residents weigh in on whether they should amend its noise ordinance, allowing outdoor music to extend longer into the evening.

Right now, sound beyond a certain decibel level is prohibited after 9 p.m.

Noise, particularly as downtown business development continues to encroach on residences, has been an issue residents, businesses and officials have tried to navigate for at least the past three years.

In the fall of 2017, residents near the Main Street Village downtown were concerned that development there would encroach on their residential quality of life.

By the spring of 2018, the operators of what was then Wine and Beer 101 [currently Burnt Barrel], town staff and residents were trying to negotiate the issue of sound that came from the property during musical events.

And, this past November, a resident on SE Railroad Street -- near The Victorian, a wedding and event venue -- complained about noise from the business during a grand opening event.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, The Victorian co-owner Brian Whitley appeared before commissioners, asking if they'd be willing to extend the noise ordinance hours to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 p.m. on Sundays.

He was back -- via telephone -- during the board's June 11 meeting to reiterate his request, bolstered by testimony from business owners and others in the area who supported the change.

"We're really trying to be conscious of everyone around us and make sure our customers are happy," Whitley said, noting they have installed shrubbery and other noise-dampening devices to mitigate excessive noise.

He said people like to hang out, congregate, enjoy music and the outdoor weather, but "we can't do it because we have to close so early," Whitley said.

Mayor Fonzie Flowers admitted it's a difficult issue to navigate.

... I think everyone in this room is pro downtown and pro business and we want to be amenable to helping you guys out, but we also have citizenry that may have concerns about the noise going past a certain time," he said.

Commissioner Terry Hedlund said it's probably time the town made its noise ordinance more progressive.

"We need to do everything we can to help these small businesses, especially in this day and time," he said. "And, we need to move into the 21st century.

"As far as entertainment goes, [extending to] 11 p.m. is not unreasonable," he said, noting that "9 p.m., in my opinion, is unreasonable."

Whatever action the town takes, said Commissioner Larry Wiggins, it can't be done without public input.

"I don't think we should move on this until we know what the residents around this are thinking," he said.

"... Obviously, this is not going to bother me where I live, but ... contrary to all the positive comments [Whitley presented], I know for a fact that there are some neighbors [who would have an issue.]

" We should know how the actual residents of this town feel."

That's fair, board members said.

"I think that a delicate balance is really hard, specifically for Youngsville, ... because people moved here because it was kind of out of the way and it wasn't loud and it was country and I think they wanted a little space.

"So, I think the people living here didn't expect for downtown to kind of grow and then, all of a sudden, this old house [The Victorian] turns into this place that has live music 'til 11 p.m.

"... I do think it will be disturbing to some people ... so, I'm happy to go listen to the citizens and see what they're opinions are."

Commissioner Scott Brame said he's personally aware of how events that feature outdoor musical gatherings can bolster a sense of community and bolster downtown business.

"... To me, 9 p.m. is extremely early, especially for a weekend," he said.

"I think we've got some potential there that we're not tapping into," he said of expanding the noise ordinance hours.

Commissioner Joe Johnson, too, said 9 p.m. was a bit early.

"I hate to see the town roll up its carpets at 9 p.m.," he said. "I think we have some things to offer that we haven't had in the past and I think the citizens ought to have an opportunity to enjoy that."

The board agreed to task Town Administrator Phil Cordeiro with developing a survey, gauging people's thoughts about extending the noise ordinance hours to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. on the weekends, or not changing them at all.

The survey is expected to be available electronically, on the town's website, or placed, via door hanger, on residences in and around the areas that encroach upon downtown business.

Depending on what the survey reveals, the town could propose to change the ordinance.

If the board decides to change the ordinance, it will have to be the subject of a public hearing, which would also gauge public sentiment.