Knoxville city leaders will take another four weeks to further study an amendment to the city’s noise ordinance, at the request of Mayor Madeline Rogero.
Council members were set to vote on a second reading of the amendment Tuesday night. The proposed change would ban amplified sound throughout the city rights-of-way and public property. Currently, it is already unlawful to amplify sound at Market Square without a permit.
The city’s current ordinance basically prohibits noise that disturbs the peace, a quiet neighborhood, or annoys a person with a reasonable tolerance threshold. The ordinance lays out what officials take into consideration when determining if you’re violating the noise ordinance including: what time of day it is, how loud the noise is, how frequent it is and how close it is to people’s homes. Amplifiers are not currently listed as unlawful.
Andrew Collins was sitting on some mulch at Market Square on Wednesday, singing and strumming his guitar. He says he has fun meeting people and possibly making a dollar. While busking isn’t a source of income, he does depend on the hobby for enjoyment.
“Even if it’s just a smile from somebody, you know, heart-felt, I just like to bring my music out here to see what people think of it I guess,” he said.
Right now, Collins is protected by an existing ban on amplifiers and his acoustic guitar isn’t drowned out by another artist. He thinks it’s a good idea to extend the ban city-wide.
“They don’t come here to hear blaring loud music. They come here to shop and to the events and stuff, so if you’ve got an amplifier that’s ringing everybody’s head, somebody might like it, but a 95 majority percent of people are going to find it distracting. It’s not going to add to the experience. It will take away from the experience,” he said.
City Councilwoman Seema Singh Perez said in a statement: “The motivation behind this ordinance was not at all about squelching anyone’s freedom of speech rights. I am simply concerns about the unintended consequences. I would rather see a decibel limit and time frames in place than a permit required. A required permit makes it permitted free speech.”
The proposed change will be discussed again at the July 17 council meeting.