RIVERDALE -- In an attempt to please both park patrons and residents living near the park, the Riverdale City Council has made ordinance changes that allow "more teeth" for law enforcement to enforce noise levels at city parks.
In recent months, residents approached the council with complaints of the noise level at Riverdale Park at 4300 S. Parker Drive. The new ordinance specifies that amplification devices cannot operate at sound levels over 86 decibels as heard from a 25-foot distance. The ordinance may also allow officers to shut down the source of the noise if it registers above 62 decibels from a nearby resident's home.
"It doesn't eliminate the use of the park, but it gives the residents some protection," Riverdale City Attorney Steve Brooks said. "It is a good place to start. It gives the residents in that area some comfort."
Resident Kim Cox, who shares a fence with the park, had an August family birthday party in her yard "interrupted and disturbed" by a company business party with a band performing at the park. She said the noise rattled her windows, and the police were unable to turn down the noise level coming from the park.
Richard Malumby, a resident who lived in Riverdale for five years before the park was built, said that on one occasion the sound level at the park was "unbelievable," and rattled the umbrellas on his outside tables.
Council members also described how a community picnic was disturbed by a group amplifying sound from the nearby amphitheater.
"I heard the music being played," Councilman Don Hunt said. "It was over the top. The fact that they couldn't be shut down was a shame."
Councilman Alan Arnold said that on one occasion, a resident called him to complain about noise coming from the park and he was unable to hear her over the phone because of the sound.
"I would be extremely bothered if it was my backyard," Arnold said.
Brooks said the new clause "that saves a whole lot of grief" includes the ability to have law enforcement officers take decibel readings at a resident's home upon request. If the reading shows a noise level over 62, then the officer can "shut down" the noise at its source.
"It is 62 decibels, which, quite frankly, is low, or about speech level," Brooks said. "It gives the officer the teeth to do something. If it gets out of hand, they can shut it down."
"It is important to protect the residents ... ," Councilman Braden Mitchell said. "This ordinance gives us exactly the teeth we need."
To help enforce the new code, which passed by a narrow 3-2 vote, Riverdale police officers now have sound meters that can measure noise levels.
Brooks said noise coming from children using the splash pad registers at about 72 decibels when he measured it right next to the pad in late August. He assumes it could rise to about 85 decibels on crowded days. A jet flying over the park measured 75 decibels, while traffic on Riverdale Road peaked at about 85 decibels, Brooks said.
Brooks also said the city should rely on its special-event permit policy to govern noise issues at the park. If concerts and other such events are to be held in the park, organizers are required to obtain a permit from city administration.