July 1, 2010
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Albany: Royal Oak, Michigan, a leafy suburb of Detroit with a population of around 60,000, has won this month’s Noisy Dozen Award from Noise Free America for proposing to allow more thunderous noise by easing the city’s noise ordinance. By equating noise with “fun” and “business development,” some Royal Oak officials seem intent on destroying the city’s quality of life.
The city government’s website states that Royal Oak has “maintained the appeal of a small town, while affording many of the amenities of a large metropolis.” In addition, each year since 1976, the city has earned the Arbor Day Foundation’s distinction of “Tree City USA.”
Recently, though, the city has turned away from peace and tranquility. Royal Oak’s downtown has become home to trendy, chic restaurants, shops, and entertainment, as well as high-rise residential developments. Woody’s Diner, a popular downtown hangout, features live blasting bands and open windows on the second floor. The Memphis Smoke Bar features the “deepest live blues” on Friday and Saturday nights. Bob Weinbaum, a resident of downtown Royal Oak, complains that the cacophony of drums and bass guitars rattles his windows and harms his quality of life.
The noise situation in downtown Royal Oak may soon get worse. Brian Kramer, the owner of the Memphis Smoke Bar, proposes to add to the mayhem by constructing a rooftop band shell. The Royal Oak City Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed band shell on July 14.
The clamor from downtown clubs is not the only source of noise in Royal Oak. Trains rumble through the town at all hours of the day and night. Then there are the motorcycles. A town profile notes: “During the summer, downtown Royal Oak becomes host to hordes of motorcycle enthusiasts from around the metro Detroit area. Wednesday nights, Main Street is often lined up with Harley-Davidsons, whereas on Thursday nights, the streets fill up with sport bikes.”
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, stated that “Royal Oak is on the wrong path to economic development. Excessive noise is very bad for business. Noise drives customers away. Excessive noise makes people want to move. A Census Bureau reported indicates that noise is Americans’ number one complaint about their neighborhoods and their number one reason for wishing to move. Forcing residents out of downtown because of noise is a very poor strategy.”
Chuck Semchena, a Royal Oak City Commissioner, told The Detroit Free Press that the approval of more liquor licenses downtown is adding to “noise and chaos downtown.” Approval of more amplified bands, he noted, would cause even greater noise.
Other municipalities are taking a saner approach to downtown development. Recently, the Austin, Texas city council voted unanimously to limit nighttime bar noise to 70 decibels (standard street levels). In addition, Lake Worth, Florida is also considering requiring a quieter downtown.
There are other municipal leaders in the fight for peace and quiet. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, residents are encouraged to contact the police department to report illegal noise from boom cars and motorcycles. In Denver, local police are strictly enforcing the Noise Control Act of 1972, which requires that motorcycles meet strict noise regulations. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has instituted “Operation Silent Night,” which cracks down on noisy night clubs, motorcycles, and car horns.