Proposal to peel back music zoning rules clears a hurdle

A new zoning code that would allow hosting music by-right for businesses passed the City Planning Commision largely intact last night. Under current zoning laws, restaurants can only host unamplified music unless they hold a special-use permit, the application for which costs $1,500. The proposal—which still has to clear City Council next month—would make music by-right in some commercial zoning districts.

The city’s lead planner Jim Tolbert had originally proposed a provisional use permit for businesses that host amplifed music, under which businesses would lose their right to do so for a year if they broke the law four times in a span of two months. But after meetings with city officials and the music community Tolbert came to argue for allowing music by-right, arguing that existing ABC, capacity and noise do enough to keep local music in check.

Some who attended the meeting didn’t agree. Belmont resident Allison Ruffner argued in favor of special-use permits, noting that businesses that commit with a permit to hosting loud music would be more likely to install soundproofing, for example. "I would prefer for this discussion to have more structure. You have to have rules, you have to have guidelines."

"If you don’t make it expensive, you’re going to have chaos," she said.

Randolph Byrd, a floutist and local historian, said, "You have a law enforcement problem."

The proposal passed 5-1 with some ammendments. Three districts—Downtown Extended, Highway Commercial and M-1—would still require special-use permits, while South Street district businesses would require a provisional-use permit. Live amplified music still won’t be allowed in Belmont and on the Emmet Street corridor.

Read past coverage here.

Does local music need further regulation?

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