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Ice arena noise irritates neighbors

How much noise is too much?

The New Richmond City Council appears to be interested in making sure residents aren't being bothered by unnecessary loud noise.

The issue came to light after the City re-wrote its ordinances. A portion of the existing ordinance for "Loud and Unnecessary Noise Prohibited" defining loud noise during evening hours was accidentally left out.

So Police Chief Mark Samelstad brought an ordinance change to the Council for action at its regular Monday meeting. He was seeking to add language establishing a 70-decibel limit during the day and a 60-decibel limit for evening hours.

"We're not increasing what the decibel level was from the old one (ordinance)," Mayor David Schnitzler told the crowd.

When neighbors of the New Richmond Sports Center caught wind of the proposal, however, some thought the City was trying to increase the allowable noise level to solve problems around the city-owned building.

Several residents attended Monday's meeting to protest. Alderman Jane Hansen, who also lives near the arena, objected to the proposed decibel level limit.

"I think 70 decibels is too high," she said, noting that several neighbors sleep during the day and work at night and the ice rink noise disrupts their slumber.

Several residents said they have been complaining about excessive noise from the Sports Center for years. Music playing inside the arena and ice compressors outside the facility seem to be the main culprits.

Hansen said she's called the police several times over the past three years when levels of noise were high.

Building Inspector John Frisco said he hasn't been informed of the issue in the four years he's been on the job and ordinance enforcement is part of his duties.

"This is the first time I've heard of this issue," he said.

Hansen purchased a decibel meter recently and took some readings herself. She claims that decibel levels were 75 on her deck over the weekend, and her home is 225 feet away from the ice rink.

When neighbors complained again on Monday, Samelstad and Frisco took decibel level readings of their own around the area of the Sports Center.

Samelstad said decibel readings outside the arena reached as high as 66 at the property line. Those readings were near the ice compressor on the property.

Frisco said the readings were likely lower at the Sports Center's property line because much of the excessive noise is likely escaping the vents on top of the roof.

When the wind is coming from the right direction, Frisco guesses that neighbors catch a wave of more noise.

"There's obviously a problem," Frisco said.

Frisco said the City, neighbors and Sports Center officials should be able to work on a solution to the problem. He suggested looking at power vents that would regulate the release of noise into the air.

He also suggested that the ice rink operators might be asked to turn the music and public address system down.

In the meantime, the Council voted to temporarily establish a 70-decibel limit during the day and a 60-decibel limit during the evening.

Aldermen Roberta Dale-Wozniak and Fred Horne said the City would then study the issue of decibel levels to see what limits may be appropriate.

Dale-Wozniak said the eventual noise limits could be set lower than the existing 60, if research proves that is the right thing to do.

"Let's do some studies, get more information and come back," Horne said.

In other business:

• The Council rejected the latest proposal to purchase 18.8 acres of commercial land by CCS Development LLC.

• The Council rejected a request from the Liquor Locker Bar & Grill to extend their liquor license to a patio area behind the building. Owner Jesse Murphy had sought the extension to allow liquor to be consumed near a new volleyball and boot hockey court he plans to install.

Alderman Horne said he'd like to see how the recreational courts work for awhile before the liquor license is extended.

• The Council rejected a request from New Richmond 8 Theater for a beer and wine license. The owners were hoping to start a bistro inside the local movie complex to expand their revenue sources.

• The Council voted to begin the process of extending Richmond Way to the east to 140th Street.

• The Council voted to remove the stop sign for the westbound lane of Richmond Way at the intersection of Doman Drive. Cars build up behind that stop sign in the morning and afternoon.

• The Council accepted the donation of land owned by Tom Doar. The four acres is on an island and could be used for a future park.