June 24, 2018
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Bangor committee says more research into Waterfront Concert levels is needed

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Fans have a good time while waiting for the "No Shoes Nation Tour 2013" concert to begin with the Eli Young Band and Kenny Chesney at the Darlings Waterfront Pavilion in August.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The committee exploring ways to ease concerns raised by some Bangor residents who believe Waterfront Concerts are too loud ironed out recommendations Wednesday night that it will present to city councilors next week.

Most of its recommendations call for further research before establishing any rules regulating sound levels or installing expensive infrastructure, which might not adequately contain the noise anyhow.

Their goal: “maintain decibel levels at all Waterfront Concerts that provide a positive entertainment experience without unacceptable sound discomfort for residents,” according to a report the group will send to City Council, which will explore the suggestions.

The committee’s deliberations have been technical, dealing with decibel levels and delving into the science of how sound travels.

Low-frequency sounds — such as the booming bass notes most residents have cited as being a problem — present a challenge in terms of controlling noise levels. Experts the group consulted said that about 2.5 percent of the population has a lower tolerance for those frequencies than the average person, who might hardly notice them at all.

The committee, which has consulted with sound experts, considered the possibility of a fence or planting. That sort of change to the venue might contain high-frequency sounds, but would do little to halt the spread of low-frequency waves. A barrier to control the low-frequency sound would need to be more than two stories high — an expensive and permanent structure — and it might not work anyway, the committee found.

Among the committee’s recommendations to the council are:

— Find best practices for decibel levels set for outdoor concerts throughout the country, and find a way to incorporate those in concert contracts.

— Look at Bangor’s noise ordinance and potentially add regulations for outdoor concerts.

— If sound levels are set, determine penalties for performers that violate sound levels.

— Acquire fixed-point monitoring equipment to continue gathering sound data for a year of events.

— Continue investigating sound-controlling walls or fences that won’t ruin the waterfront aesthetic, as well as the potential for a roof to prevent some sound from leaving the venue.

— Before completing future contracts, lower the sound by 10 decibels for one concert year.

“I think we’ve done the best we could, but we know it’s not going to solve problems for everyone completely,” said Sheila Pechinski, who led the concert noise committee.

Alex Gray, Waterfront Concerts promoter, said his organization has invested a lot in the site and wants to continue its work in Bangor. Members of the committee, and most of the people who have complained about noise, have said they want the concerts in Bangor, but want the sound turned down.

Because Bangor isn’t a major market for artists, restricting their noise levels under threat of financial penalty could cause some performers to shy away. Musicians are willing to work around regulations in large venues, but might not be willing to in a place such as Bangor.

Gray, who has attended the committee’s meetings, pointed out concerts this year totaled less than 60 hours in a year with 8,760 hours. He said he understands the concerns of residents who say the music is too loud, but that no matter what changes the venue makes, it still won’t please everyone.

That doesn’t mean he won’t continue to work with the City Council, Gray said.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story reported that Gray pointed out concerts this year totaled less than 60 hours in a year with 8,765 hours. It should have said 8,760 hours.

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