PORTLAND — Complaints about noise involving bars, clubs and restaurants will be addressed in the future by Portland’s Sound Oversight Committee, which will be formed to mediate disputes.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to establish the four-member committee.

If the committee – which will have no enforcement powers – cannot persuade an establishment to reduce noise, then the issue can be referred to the council.

The council also voted to change the accepted noise limit from 55 decibels to 92 decibels, a revision that will give police the authority to require an establishment to turn down music immediately.

“Instead of getting the police involved in a dispute, this (committee) creates a body that can resolve a problem before it gets to that point,” said Doug Fuss, a member of Portland’s Downtown Noise Task Force and the owner of Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street.

The task force, which consists of bar owners, musicians, residents and city officials, says that mediation will produce better results than hard-and-fast rules. And with the higher noise limit, a police officer can ask a bar owner to turn down the music. The lower limit was seen as unenforceable because even a city bus can produce 55 decibels.

Bar owners who fail to comply could risk losing their entertainment licenses.

“This should help us mitigate noise complaints,” police Lt. Gary Hutcheson said.

The Sound Oversight Committee will consist of a police officer – Hutcheson said he will serve in that role — a city employee, a resident and a holder of an entertainment license. Hutcheson will chair the committee meetings.

The committee will be able to recommend operating limits, sound-proofing or other steps that could reduce noise.

Committee members can forward such recommendations to the City Council, which can incorporate them into an establishment’s license.

Mary Costigan, a city attorney, told councilors that two or more complaints during a seven-day period will trigger a meeting between the committee and the establishment.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]