City forming committee to address downtown noise issue

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Bel Air Grill patrons are silhouetted against the stage lights as they dance to the music of Tungsten Groove as they perform on Bel Air's outdoor stage on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010, in Cape Girardeau. (Kristin Eberts)

A new committee is being formed to sound off on Cape Girardeau's noise ordinance to determine whether it needs to be changed, more strongly enforced or, perhaps, left unchanged.

A number of downtown neighbors collected a petition of more than 20 signatures specifically targeting the Bel Air Grill, which over the summer hosted rock bands that performed outdoors. The neighbors claim the sound of the amplified music was disrupted and citations were issued to business owner Misty Thrower.

City officials and members of the so-called noise disturbance committee hope to find a balance that allows the business to continue having outdoor acts while addressing the concerns of the neighbors.

Police chief Carl Kinnison drafted a memo that was presented to the Cape Girardeau City Council at its most recent meeting. Kinnison reported in the memo that he has been working to put together a committee to review the noise ordinance.

The committee is being charged with making recommendations after taking a look at the noise ordinance, Kinnison said in the report. The committee has members so far in Old Town Cape executive director Marla Mills, former council member and former policeman Charlie Herbst and Tim Arbeiter, vice president of development at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and city attorney Eric Cunningham.

The committee is still seeking a downtown business owner, a downtown resident and someone from law enforcement to serve on the committee. Once those members have been found, the committee is expected to meet to review the noise ordinance to develop a solution, said city manager Scott Meyer.

"We want an invigorated downtown," Meyer said. "Finding that balance is hard sometimes. We're asking this committee to look at the ordinance and make some recommendations to further that balance."

The committee is expected to be finalized and hold its first meeting within the next 30 days, Mills said. Old Town Cape isn't looking to get involved with a dispute between residents and a business, but changes to the noise ordinance could affect several downtown businesses, she said.

"So we thought we should be a part of the group looking at that," she said.

Still, she said, there isn't an easy answer. Businesses like Bel Air are important, but including mixed-uses like residences are equally vital to a thriving downtown, she said.

Herbst said there were complaints about the Bel Air's noise problem dating back to when he was on the city council. But it got worse after they built an outdoor stage, he said. He intends to look at ordinances in other communities.

"You've got to go into it with an open mind," he said. "You don't want to squelch commerce and people's ability to run their business. But you also want more and more people living downtown. I would like to see us strike a balance."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

418 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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