Keep it down!
City officials are drawing up plans that could greatly reduce the areas of Port Aransas where highly amplified outdoor music legally may be played late at night.
The Port Aransas City Council voted 6-0 to have city staff prepare a draft ordinance describing the parts of town that would be considered an “amplified music district.” Councilman Charles Bujan was absent due to illness.
Creating the district would require three readings by council of a proposed new ordinance.
Interim City Manager Dave Parsons said he plans to have a proposal ready for the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to inspect it at the body’s next meeting, on Monday, April 26.
If the commission passes along a recommendation in time, the council could hold its first reading in May.
The move to create an amplified music district came after the city received numerous complaints about loud music coming from Isla Tiki Bar and Burrito Shack, a new outdoor nightclub on Avenue G. But Isla Tiki isn’t the first club that has produced complaints. The issue of loud music has repeatedly popped up at council meetings over the years.
The district will encompass certain commercial areas of Port Aransas. “Within that area, (noise limits) will be less stringent,” Parsons said. “Outside that district, they’ll be more stringent.”
The district’s exact perimeter hasn’t been drawn up yet, but Parsons said the area could exclude sizable portions of commercial parts of town where amplified music currently is allowed. The Planning and Zoning Commission will look at a city staff proposal and then possibly change it up and pass on a recommendation to the council, Parsons said.
Parsons said he expects the district’s lines to be drawn to likely exclude “the vast majority” of the area where amplified music currently is allowed.
No proposal has been drawn up yet with specific decibel levels that would be allowed inside or outside the amplified music district.
The concept of an amplified music district first was proposed by Councilman Mike Hall about 18 months ago, according to Mayor Pro Tem Keith McMullin.
As envisioned, McMullin said, the amplified music district generally will be surrounded by businesses and won’t abut residential property.
Live music still will be allowed outside the amplified music district, but ordinances will allow the music to be played louder and later than in other parts of town, McMullin said.
Responding to complaints, police visited the area of Isla Tiki 13 times between Feb. 27 and March 27, according to Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs. Police took decibel readings and never found that the bar exceeded decibel limits allowed in that area under existing city ordinances, Burroughs said.
Isla Tiki’s majority owner, Andrew Hodel, didn’t speak at the council meeting. Earlier, in an interview, he said his business has been scrupulous about obeying city ordinances. He also has said he would have his bands turn down the volume if people would call him with complaints. People generally haven’t called him, he said.
One person who spoke at the council meeting said she has called Isla Tiki to complain but got only constant busy signals.
Hall said he checked out the area around the bar during Spring Break and found the music to be extremely loud.
“I can’t imagine how this is legal,” said Hall, who was a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission when the commission helped create the existing noise ordinance. “I drove past the bar, and my teeth were rattling.”
Mary Lynn Magee, who has a home near Isla Tiki, was among several neighborhood residents who appeared before the council and to say the bar has been extremely noisy.
“I just can’t tell you what it’s like to have your bedroom shake until two in the morning,” Magee told the council. “It’s just not a place you want to be.”
Magee urged the council to “put teeth in the ordinance and make it possible for people to sleep at night.”
Also speaking to the council was Paul Fain, owner of Tarpon Ice House, which hosts live bands at its location on Alister Street, just north of Beach Street. Fain said an amplified music district could be a good thing.
“That’s fine, as long as it incorporates a large enough district, and isn’t elitist, and doesn’t include just the harbor area, and gets down the main street,” Fain said.
The city needs to make hard decisions about what direction it wants to go with live music, create an ordinance that reflects that, and then stick with it, regardless of future complaints, Fain said.