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Kansas City revises noise ordinance after commercial and residential areas overlap

Entertainment and residential areas are increasingly overlapping in downtown Kansas City, and the noise from one has become a problem for the other. So Kansas City Council members updated the city’s noise ordinance Thursday.
Entertainment and residential areas are increasingly overlapping in downtown Kansas City, and the noise from one has become a problem for the other. So Kansas City Council members updated the city’s noise ordinance Thursday. The Kansas City Star

Kansas City officials hope a new noise ordinance passed Thursday will better deal with complaints about loud music downtown and in other entertainment areas.

No changes were made in overall decibel levels or the hours when volume limits apply.

But the former noise ordinance needed a rewrite, officials said, because of recent changes in zoning laws.

Historically, the city has allowed louder noise in commercial areas than in residential neighborhoods. That won’t change.

Rather, the city is changing its ability to define which standards apply in areas where the two uses mix.

Conflicts arose in recent years downtown, for instance, when commercial buildings were turned into apartments and condominiums.

It was business as usual at some bars. But new residents complained about loud music that ruined their sleep.

Exacerbating the problem downtown and elsewhere was the city’s smoking ordinance. A change enacted several years ago prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants. To accommodate smokers, businesses added decks and rooftop bars. That meant the party, and the music, moved outside.

“Our noise ordinance had not caught up to that,” Councilman Scott Wagner said before the council approved what he acknowledged was a technical and complicated set of new regulations.

One of those rules singles out loud, thumping bass sounds that Councilman John Sharp said rattle the dishes in his house when a neighbor pulls into a nearby driveway. Previously, there was no such distinction.

The Health Department received 178 noise complaints in 2014, deputy health director Bert Malone told a council committee Wednesday. Most are people calling in their neighbors about barking dogs, blaring exhausts pipes or thumping music.

Malone said the department will be ordering new noise monitoring equipment that will make regulating noise easier for city inspectors, who can ask violators to pipe down or cite them if they don’t.

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738 or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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