Apr 22, 2021 - News

Des Moines considers "sound permit zones" to combat noise pollution

Illustration volume settings using buildings as bar graph to indicate level of volume.

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Des Moines will consider "sound permit zones" to control noise in at least five downtown districts.

Why it matters: Getting it right is important to balance the needs of our growing downtown living and entertainment spaces.

  • Noise pollution can affect our health, especially for those living near entertainment venues, but overly strict ordinances could quash the vibrancy that we’ve worked decades to build.

Flashback: Des Moines overhauled zoning ordinances in 2019, retiring longtime zoning districts used to determine where sound permits could be issued.

  • A new noise restriction review was launched soon after the changes.
  • Live music supporters were concerned that earlier noise ordinance ideas could hamper outdoor concerts at the new $13 million Lauridsen Amphitheater in Water Works Park.

What’s new: The proposed zones include areas surrounding Wells Fargo Arena, Western Gateway Park. Principal Park, and two locations in the East Village. Water Works Park is not in one of the zones.

  • More are likely, especially as areas like the new Market District are developed.

Venues would get up to 10 permits a month, but face restrictions like:

  • A maximum decibel level of 85. (Extended periods over 70 can hearing damage, per the EPA.)
  • Going quiet by 11pm on weeknights and 12:30am on weekends/holidays.
  • Areas with nearby housing would be more tightly regulated.

What they’re saying: City officials are making earnest efforts to strike the right balance, Loyd Ogle, one of the co-founders of the 80/35 Music Festival that's held in Western Gateway Park, told Axios.

  • "But it’s difficult to regulate sound. It might look good on paper but until it is in practice, it’s hard to know if it’s right," Ogle said.

What’s next: The City Council is expected to consider a proposal in coming weeks.


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