Amid pushback, city staffers pull sound ordinance changes


After music industry groups pushed back against a proposal to repeal and replace the city’s sound ordinance, city staffers have decided not to bring the measure to the Austin City Council next week.

“It is our understanding that a group of stakeholders would like to work together to develop alternative recommendations,” Alex Lopez, deputy director of the city’s Economic Development Department, said Friday.

The repeal and replace ordinance was designed to incorporate an agent of change principle, the idea that an existing business should be protected from pressures against its operations from newer actors who move in nearby. In other words, the burden of soundproofing falls to the condo or hotel that builds next to a live music venue, if the live music venue was there first.

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It also introduced a new entertainment license for outdoor music venues that would extend the renewal period for a sound permit from one year to two.

But music industry groups say they didn’t realize implementing the new policies would lead to a full rewrite of the city’s sound code, which advocacy group Austin Music People’s executive chairman, Bobby Garza, described as “the ordinance that underpins the absolute health of the entire music ecosystem.” They also worried that the measures didn’t go far enough to protect venues.

RELATED: Agent of Change: Why music venues say proposal isn’t enough

Rebecca Reynolds, director of the Music Venue Alliance Austin, another industry advocacy group, plans to assemble an informal working group to examine the policy in more detail over the summer.

James Russell, the executive director of the Trail of Lights Foundation, said several stakeholders will be at the informal meetings, including representatives from neighborhood associations, the Red River Merchants Association, the Austin Hotel & Lodging Association and music advocates. Russell will also attend after heading up the unrelated Visitor Impact Task Force.

“It is not city staff led,” Russell said of the working group. “The goal is mutual success. Neighborhoods want to be able to enjoy their lifestyle, and music venues want to be able to put out music for everyone to enjoy.”

“The neighborhoods want the music people to be successful and the music venues want the residents to be able to live in peace.”



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