Friday, July 23, 2010

Are the council and DDA turning a deaf ear to noise problems?

The long-running conflict between residents living near downtown Ferndale, the city council, and business owners seems to be coming to a head.
  • A petition is being circulated by W. Troy residents to put a new noise ordinance on the November ballot.
  • Last night, the DDA's Board of Directors held a special meeting, "..  to discuss residential and business concerns relating to the City of Ferndale's current noise ordinance and proposed changes to it."
  • At the last city council meeting, council woman Melanie Piana confessed that while on a late-nite bike-ride with her husband she experienced, first-hand, how loud the music is on residential streets, and asked the city's administration to give the matter some attention.
  • Earlier this month, the city of Mt. Clemens passed an ordinance banning sound that can be heard more than 500 feet from its source.
These are just some of the stories that have been in the news lately.  In Ferndale, city-leaders' dedication to reinvigorating its downtown by turning it into a night-club and entertainment district has proceeded despite regular complaints from residents living near downtown about loud music disturbing their sleep as well as the attendant parking problems, public urination, disorderly persons on residential streets, and drug paraphernalia and discarded rubbers found on homeowner's front lawns.

At the DDA's special meeting Thursday night at Rosie O'Grady's approximately 30 people including one acoustic engineer, the Chief of Police, two city councilpersons, members of the DDA board, its executive director and other staff, and residents gathered to discuss the noise ordinance.

Here are just a few of my impressions.  I invite everyone to leave comments with their own, or share their own opinions as they will.
  •  Craig Covey suggested the problem may have become worse recently with more of the nightclubs opening patios and having outside entertainment.  Though there is certainly more outside music than before (both live and recorded) it doesn't explain residents complaints before outside music became popular.  Additionally, it shouldn't matter where the music's source is--if it's too loud inside a resident's home it's too loud regardless whether it came from the club's patio, bar, or a bathroom.
  • One of the board members reported that in addition to the $75-500 fine they may owe the city, the Liquor Control Commission (LCC) may add additional fines up to $5000.
  • Brian Kramer gets the "Best Comment" award for when he said (paraphrasing), "I want to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.  I don't like having this problem and I don't like having these meetings."
  • Kramer also said his original site plan included 15' walls and a tree barrier around Rosie's, but those features designed to limit noise leakage into the neighborhood were eliminated by the the city's Appearance Review Committee.
  • I forget who mentioned it, but the idea to make W. Troy a one-way street was re-introduced, as was the idea to remove the sidewalk leading from W. Nine Mile into the neighborhood, to discourage late-night revelers from stumbling in the direction of the nearby homes.
  • One resident suggested the public urination problem may be due to the lack of accessible restrooms to folks on Rosie's patio.  In a conversation afterward another resident pointed out that Como's has restrooms accessible directly from their patio, and suggested that had Rosie's site-plan included outside-accessible restrooms the Appearance Review Committee would likely have eliminated those as well.
  • Rather than trying to tell people what 75.0 DB(A)s sounds like it would have been much better to bring a device that makes a 75.0 DB(a) sound, use the police's sound meter to check it, then see how far away the meter must move before the sound level falls to 0.0 DB(A)s.
I'm unconvinced an ordinance listing allowable decibels (on any scale--A or B) is the best approach for Ferndale's noise problem. I admire the simplicity of Mt. Clemens's approach.  If you're 500' away and can still here it, then the noise is too loud.  Unfortunately, Ferndale homes are, in many cases, less than 100' away.  It's hard to imagine any night-time music, ambient or not, would dissipate to nothing before traveling a mere 100'.

I'm thinking that some kind of barrier may be required, as well as a possible resurfacing of W. Nine Mile, Planavon, Allen, and perhaps Withington and W. Troy with a material designed to absorb noise--along with a healthy growth of trees.

What do you think?


  1. I forgot to mention. I bumped-in to Sherry Wells on my way home. She was collecting more petition signatures on Withington so I suspect that whatever she heard at the DDA's meeting wasn't enough to dissuade her from getting a new ordinance on the November ballot.

    Also, another resident complained about the new refrigeration units on-top of Ferndale Foods. Apparently they're loud enough to hear inside homes on Withington.

  2. There should be a limit on how much noise can be made, especially at night. I concede that. However, I take exception to a couple of points you're making.

    The notion that a thriving retail town was turned into an entertainment/nightclub destination by what I assume will be your upcoming campaign opponents is nonsense. As we all know, Ferndale's downtown was in pretty bad shape not that long ago. Restaurants and bars replaced empty storefronts. As these entertainment destinations came into town, retail has started to follow. Ferndale Bike Shop, the bakeries, the boutiques, the hobby shop... The foot traffic provided by the entertainment destination lured these businesses here. They were not flocking to Ferndale when the nice quiet empty storefronts and a couple of (very cool and sorely missed by yours truly) coffee houses were all that was to be found.

    When you choose to live directly adjacent to a commercial district, there is going to be noise. It may not have been as noisy when that commercial district was near complete abandon, but that has changed, and I am happy for it. I would not like to go back. That said, I chose to purchase a house set back from the main streets and commercial or industrial areas of our fair city, as I did not want to live near a lot of traffic and noise. Sometimes I wish I lived closer to downtown, to have that benefit of being a minute's walk to the market and the bakery, rather than getting on my bike, but if I had made that decision, I know I'd be taking the cons with the pros. It seems to me some want the pros, but not the cons.

    I'm for a happy medium, as long as it doesn't unfairly punish businesses. Michigan does enough punishing of businesses on its own, it's amazing these people are even able to open shop given our lawmakers affinity for making that as difficult as possible in this state. I also hope those of us who intentionally chose to live further from the main commercial district don't have our options too greatly curbed at the desires of those who want the pros without the cons.

  3. "I'm for a happy medium, as long as it doesn't unfairly punish businesses."

    A happy medium is, without doubt, be what everybody wants. I agree that it shouldn't unfairly punish businesses or residents.

    I also agree with you that I don't want downtown to return to empty store-fronts.

    It may cost some money to get this right. As desperate as many are for a parking structure it may also be necessary to construct some kind of buffer between downtown and their neighborhoods.

    Ferndale seems a little duplicious when it comes to zoning. They were quick to rezone homes when they expected a big investment from loft and condo builders along Woodward, but have been reluctant to do the same along Nine Mile.

    Now, it may be that city council considers Nine Mile, and the problems along it, a learning experience they didn't want to repeat on Woodward, but then they should address what the right solution is, and put its implementation ahead of either a parking structure or a municipal complex.

  4. While I am so happy that there is such a regrowth in the businesses in Ferndale, I can understand the concern for people living nearby and we don't want to discourage them from living there either. Has anyone in another city done anything that seems to help this problem? Complaining and fining doesn't seem to help. Is there something that can be offered to homeowners to install in their houses - at the collective business' expense to help curb the noise? I remember living in a dorm in college with the noise from clubs, fraternity parties and streets - but we wore earplugs or put towels around our windows. I understand this is not a college town and these are family homes, but no one would logically say they want to find themselves in a boring non-thriving town. Maybe the patio area that the music is played on can be moved indoors - obviously you would be able to hear it outside...
    What about having the bars take some responsibility for the patrons - especially in the summer and assign security to their outside areas so that less people would wander into the residential area - plus if those people are so inebriated - should they be going to their cars in the first place? Just a few ideas - unfortunately there is no quick solution or easy one and I hope that the Ferndale residents and businesses will work together with open minds to come to a solution that is a compromise for everyone.

  5. I like the 500ft ordinance that was passed in Mt Clemens. It makes the most sense. Ferndale's business district is growing & it will take sometime to place the proper infrastructure & ordinances in place. Unfortunately our city's brightest & best choose to allow mega bars to open without the correct infrastructure in place first. Keep the noise indoors. Why is there a need to have a blaring sound system outdoors in a residential district? This is not Downtown Detroit or Pontiac. Ferndale is first & foremost a residential city that happens to have a very very small business district. Why is a bar owner's little patio so much more important than an entire tax paying neighborhood's quality of life?? I happen to love really loud music. But the last thing I would want to do is negatively effect anyone's quality of life. By the way..the foot traffic from the "entertainment" businesses is not what lures "day" retail businesses to Ferndale. The day traffic is pretty slow with the exception of Saturdays. Retail businesses have moved here because the rent is still somewhat affordable & there is a core base of unique independent retail that has been here long before the DDA & current council. Kudos to the Royal Oak council that said no to an outdoor roof-top bar because of noise concerns by the surrounding residents. Residents first!

  6. Linda, you raise an interesting question--why are small retailers in Ferndale? I know of some that chose Ferndale over RO because of rent.

    That would be an interesting survey--provided it was objectively designed and administered.

  7. I'm sure rent is the major factor, but if Ferndale had done nothing to make it's downtown attractive, we wouldn't be the next choice. I think political opponents of the DDA severely underestimate the part they've had in reviving our downtown.

    Linda - if all that was required to attract retail was the core retail that was already here... Why were all the storefronts empty? Why was nobody coming in until a CONCERTED AND DELIBERATE EFFORT was made to revive our downtown? Part of that revival meant entertainment destinations to draw foot traffic.

  8. Jason, you make a great point that requires some thought.

    How should responsibility for downtown's success be attributed to each of the parties? I can think of a few; residents, landlords, pre-existing shops, new shops, the economy forcing more to pursue entrepreneurship, the re-design of Nine Mile, on-street parking, Royal Oak's success and rising rent, the DDA, the CDS, and liquor licenses.

    I suspect others can think of more to add to the list. I know many want to give credit to Ferndale's increasing GLBT population.

    I'm reluctant to give as much credit to the DDA as others are inclined to do.

  9. All the storefronts were empty prior to the mid-90s..they soon filled up shortly thereafter as a result of the up-tick in the economy. The Magic Bag, Boogie Fever, WAB,& Club 9 have all been here for years. These establishments were not wooed here by the DDA. They were born out of individual investment & vision. The storefronts were empty in the 80's -mid 90's as a result of the new malls & the recession. When Royal Oak's downtown grew in the mid 90's so did Ferndale's. We are really lucky to have a small business district nestled within a residential community! The individuals that chose to invest in Ferndale's housing & community should be heard & respected. I truly hope that a fair compromise will be reached.

  10. Detroit is the ONLY downtown in the entire state of Michigan. When anyone from ferndale leaves town and visists LA or Miami they don't tell peoople they are from ferndale, rather they introduce themselves as Detroiters. So why don't you all join in a great movement in the only real downtown in the entire state and move to Detroit. I could sit here and comment on some nonsense but why waste my heart and soul on that lowly energy. Instead I will just tell you that their is a reason 12,000 young upwardly mobile people just came to Detroit for the US Social Forum. They did not come to ferndale. Patti Smith is on twitter telling people to move to Detroit, not ferndale. Young artists are moving to Detroit in droves, not ferndale. Their is a vibe in Detroit that you cannot get in any other city in the world especially ferndale. So, the coice is yours. Do something and make a proactive move towards peace and love and move your homes and your businesses to Detroit. When I lived in ferndale their was a crack dealer that moved into my apartment building and he was ho'ing out his foster son. Someone that is close me and has business in ferndale reported eveything to the ferndale police and guess what the police did, absolutely nothing. I routinely see the seven mile surprise tranny hooker man/women that hook all night at McNichols and Woodward come trapsing thru "downtown" ferndale after a long night in heels. They head for Affirmations to change back into a man and then prance around 9 mile as if it is a big shooooo. Sometimes these idiots just come into retail boutiques and try and use the dressing room to change from tranny hooker girly girl back into twinkie man. That's always good for business. Is marketing director Chris Hughes in charge of that shit. I have seen this happen more than once. One time just last year I was walking home with my girl in ferndale from a bar and some guy that was running a meth lab in his house jumped off his porch in a drugged out stupor and basically called fag fag fag and wanted to kick my ass because he thought I was gay. So much for the great gay accepting society in ferndale. NOT! You know not too long ago there was a rash of break in's in at least 8 retailers right on Nine mile. You hear anything about that? Thought not. ferndale is about be further financially ruined because of a militaristic approach to policing and a killer rookie cop. Wait to go rookie! You ain't nothing but a killer to me. I think if ferndale were a person they would be sedated, put in a straight jacket and all sharp objects would be taken from them before being institutionalized. Tell you what though, all the same stuff goes down in the D. Crime, prostitution, and yes loud noise from festivals and bars. Heres the deal biggotted white folks just won't move ever move to Detroit and that is perfectly fine with me. So please stay in ferndale if your that dude. But if you love life and can deal with all crap that you peaple from ferndale have to deal with, you might as well just move to Detroit. It is way more fun, lots more to do and your in a real Downtown. Last week I saw Richard Gere filming a new movie across the street from me where I live in Detroit. When I am in ferndale I don't see Richard Gere hanging out. I see mister kramers obese, one burger away from a heart attack ass woddling about. move to Detroit!

  11. maybe Patti Smith is saying "move to Detroit" but she really means "move to Ferndale," in the same manner (as suggested by you) that people from "Ferndale" introduce themselves as from "Detroit" when visiting LA or Miami.
    I'm not really going to knock Detroit. They seem to be trying to sort out their problems the same way the rest of us are. Hopefully we all figure them out in a way that works out best.

  12. I said "MOVE TO DETROIT". My Son married Meg White from your famous Detroit rock band the White Stripes. Meg has a great big house in Indian Village and invested her young money in the city of Detroit. Everyone should move to Detroit. When I was touring with the MC5 back in the sixties revolutionizing music and art, John Sinclair managed our bands, tour dates and gigs. But, we never made it to ferndale. I am sure it's cool or whatever but, Detroit is the best for young artists. MOVE TO DETROIT. POWER TO THE PEACEFUL!

  13. Where is the noise coming from? Just Rosie O' Gradys? What other entertainment venues are causing a problem? It seems that the other businesses in town don't create much noise/loud music outdoors.

  14. I've heard of complaints from Club-9, Via Nove, and Buffalo Wild Wings as well.

  15. There will always be someone that's not happy:-(

  16. I forgot to include Boogie Fever, but the complaints regarding Boogie Fever weren't about noise as much as the other things I mentioned.

  17. Ferndale ResidentJul 25, 2010, 1:32:00 PM

    Its a noisy planet. Airplanes, factories, automobiles, sirens,people talking on their cell phones...its just the way it is.

    What are the health effects of noise pollution? In Wikipedia it is explained as such- Noise health effects are both health and behavioral in nature[citation needed]. The unwanted sound is called noise. This unwanted sound can damage physiological and psychological health. Noise pollution can cause annoyance and aggression, hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.[3][4][5][6] Furthermore, stress and hypertension are the leading causes to health problems, whereas tinnitus can lead to forgetfulness, severe depression and at times panic attacks.[4][7]

    Chronic exposure to noise may cause noise-induced hearing loss. Older males exposed to significant occupational noise demonstrate significantly reduced hearing sensitivity than their non-exposed peers, though differences in hearing sensitivity decrease with time and the two groups are indistinguishable by age 79.[8] A comparison of Maaban tribesmen, who were insignificantly exposed to transportation or industrial noise, to a typical U.S. population showed that chronic exposure to moderately high levels of environmental noise contributes to hearing loss.[3]

    High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight hour period causes a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and an increase in stress[3] and vasoconstriction leading to the increased blood pressure noted above as well as to increased incidence of coronary artery disease. Noise pollution is also a cause of annoyance. ( )

    What do cities around the country do about all the noise? NYC & LA have very specific guidelines for noise. Here is Detroit's ordinance for noise in regards to speakers or amplified sound outdoors-


    (a) The operating or maintaining of noise making, noise amplifying or noise producing instruments or devices by which the peace or good order of the neighborhood is disturbed is hereby declared a nuisance. It shall be unlawful for any person, by himself or another, to operate or maintain any radio, phonograph, player-piano, calliope or other noise making, noise amplifying or noise producing instrument or devices in any public or private place in such manner by which the peace and good order or the neighborhood is disturbed or persons owning or occupying property in the neighborhood are disturbed or annoyed.

    (b) This provision of the Code shall be posted in all buildings open to the public for sporting events, in a prominent place at each exit and/or entrance to the building. At the bottom of the posted ordinance, in bold face lettering not less than one inch in height the following shall be printed. Horns and other noise amplifying instruments prohibited. (Code 1964, Sec. 39-1-37; Ord. 368-H)

    (too be continued on the next post)

  18. Ferndale ResidentJul 25, 2010, 1:42:00 PM


    The operating or maintaining of any outdoor speaker affixed to any structure or placed upon any property is prohibited if:

    (1) In any instance the speaker is audible for a distance of more than one hundred (100) feet from the source; or

    (2) The speaker is located within or less than two hundred fifty (250) feet from an area zoned residential. The restriction shall not apply to intercommunication systems utilized from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the sole purpose of conducting the internal business affairs of the establishment; provided, that when the community and economic development department or the board of zoning appeals upon appeal approves a temporary permit of thirty (30) days or less for religious services or a fair, bazaar, festival, carnival or similar use, that permit may include the use of a loudspeaker notwithstanding the above provisions. (Code 1964, Sec. 39-1-37.1)

  19. Ferndale ResidentJul 25, 2010, 2:40:00 PM

    Here is a link to noise ordinances around the country.

    Downtown Ferndale can be noisy sometimes. On W. 9 mile there are outdoor speakers on the light poles that play a steady stream of music 24/7. I think it can be heard less than 500 ft away. There are outdoor festivals, outdoor live music, outdoor DJs, and late-night bar activities. If Ferndale were a district in NYC, LA, or even Detroit many of the businesses would not be allowed to operate at the current noise levels. I know there is always the person that complains about everything but when an entire neighborhood is in distress then we should all try to reach a compromise. It seems that more sound proofing is needed by the city & businesses, perhaps more signage, and a revision of the noise ordinance. As the person above mentioned, Ferndale is primarily a residential city. The residents that are being impacted by the excessive noise are doing the the right thing with the petition. Unfortunately their initial concerns were not taken seriously over a year ago prior to certain bars opening. Beyond the noise there are drunk driving issues, public safety concerns, sinking property values etc... What will the future hold for our downtown? Our community? Do we have the right leadership? Keep the PEACE.

  20. Thank you, "Ferndale resident," for your comments. It is rare to find any inspiration in Detroit's charter.

    Thanks, too, for the links to other resources. Those are on the reading list.

  21. It always saddens me when people who are not directly affected by a situation have no empathy for their neighbors who are suffering. The residents of W. Troy and W. Saratoga fully realize and accept that they live in a downtown area. However, there is absolutely no logical way that they could have foreseen that their city officials would be so woefully inept as to allow 200 drunks on an outdoor patio until 2am every night without any consideration given to noise. The business owner was required to do absolutely nothing in terms of noise abatement. To tell the residents, ‘Oh well, too bad. You live in a downtown area.’ is simply ridiculous.

  22. Patti Smith reads Tom's blog?

  23. Who's Patti Smith?

    Just kidding.

    I'd be honored if she read it, but I suspect she only visited it to clarify her comments on moving to Detroit.

    Of course, I welcome her comments and opinions.

  24. I don't often agree with you, but I'm with you here. the noise needs to come down, I don't want to drive off bar and restaurant business, but a compromise needs to be struck. As for the "needles and condoms" thing, I've seen that one trotted out by my recently departed neighbor when it wasn't so. Not calling any body a liar, just saying You're gonna have to show me to get me to believe.

  25. It wasn't drug related, but a resident recently called police because some bar patrons were urinating on their lawn. Luckily, the police responded quickly and caught them in-the-act.

    I've heard the condom story from residents on Withington as well, and found one myself in the parking spaces on the S. side of the street while riding my bike. As disgusted as I am finding dog poop in my yard I can only imagine how one must feel finding a condom.