Acoustician David Woolworth, who was hired by the New Orleans City Council to issue a report and recommendations for the city's sound ordinance, told a council committee on March 17 that he plans to finalize his recommendations — which would affect Bourbon Street — by the end of this month. Council Vice President Stacy Head asked Woolworth to prepare a draft a few days sooner — by March 27.
Woolworth, of Oxford Acoustics, originally planned to help introduce a draft by mid-April, with an anticipated one- or two-month approval process followed by a one- or two-month compliance period. Full enforcement of the ordinance was planned by the end of 2014.
In January, the City Council pulled the plug on a draft noise ordinance — one that had ignored Woolworth's August 2013 report and recommendations. Instead, the council announced it would draft a stripped-down version, focused on Bourbon Street, to be enforced by four officers in the city's Health Department. Later that month, however, the council renewed Woolworth's contract through 2014, and he has continued to work on the proposed ordinance.
"Any ordinance that comes out, comes out based on sound," District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer said. "We do not want to criminalize the sound issue."
On March 6 and 12, Woolworth led two nighttime walks measuring sound along Bourbon Street. At the March 17 council meeting, he gave the committee a few things to consider: Where should sound officers measure sound? What are the hard caps on dBA and dBC decibel readings? And how long are the measurement intervals?
Woolworth also noted inconsistencies with measuring dilapidated buildings, saying sound often comes from more than one place.
Woolworth also said crowd noise is difficult to regulate. "You can't put a volume knob on your patrons," he said.
The contentious noise ordinance process was a motivating factor in two groups' decision to separate themselves from the state agency French Quarter Management District (FQMA). Both Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates (VCPORA) and French Quarter Citizens split from the FQMA. Nathan Chapman, a former president of VCPORA who helped craft the "seven essentials" recommendations that appeared in the scratched noise ordinance, said he's "optimistic we can work out agreeable compromises" with the next draft.