Safford Council silences first reading of proposed noise ordinance changes

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The band Boomtown plays a set at a previous event. The Safford City Council’s decision to not go forward with a more restrictive noise ordinance will allow bands to continue to play at commercial locations into the night.

Council decides to not move forward with amendments

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – A major component to a late-night watering hole is often the draw of live music that goes hand-in-hand with the libations. A proposed set of amendments to the Safford noise ordinance could have greatly hampered that feature, but the Safford City Council decided to not go through with its scheduled first reading and to keep the city’s ordinance as-is for now.

The issue was the hot-button item at Monday night’s council meeting, which drew the largest crowd since pre-COVID days.

A number of people – including bar owners – spoke against the proposed amendments to the noise ordinance. Some of the proposed amendments included that commercial music would not be allowed if it was “plainly audible” at a distance of 200 feet in any direction from the property line or location the noise was being produced from the hours of 10 p.m. – 8 a.m. For personal “self-contained” music, the sound would not be allowed to be heard from a distance of 100 feet in any direction from the operator between the hours of 10 p.m. – 8 a.m.

The bar owners, their supporters, and the Graham County Chamber of Commerce believed such amendments would have adversely affected the bar business, serving up a double whammy after being hammered by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Jim Akers of Boomtown wields his axe at a previous gig.

Prior to the meeting, Graham County Chamber of Commerce Director Vance Bryce issued a statement from the Chamber regarding the proposed noise ordinance changes.

“The Graham County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors supports a noise ordinance for house parties and in residential areas,” Bryce said. “For commercially zoned properties, we are in favor of much less regulation so that our members are not impeded in their business operations. For example, flexibility on weekend time, a greater distance than 200 feet surrounding a commercial business, and a concrete decibel limit at a specified distance so that business owners can confidently move forward with their events at the appropriate sound level. The Board finds additional regulations on business operations for bars especially harmful after several months of intense regulation due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

After about an hour of discussion listening to the various members of the public speaking out against the proposed amendments, the City Council chose to not move forward with the first reading of the proposed ordinance and simply keep the original noise ordinance the same for now.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Nathan Salas and David Kumlien, formerly of Lab Audio, energize the crowd during a gig in 2018.

The Gila Valley has a vibrant local music scene with numerous talented musicians and bands. Monday night’s decision allows those entertainers to still be able to ply their craft after 10 at night.    

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