The rumors are true: Developer Roy Carroll pushed for the city to come down on Greene Street Club at the end of last year, sparking a process that ultimately resulted in Greensboro City Council considering a far stricter citywide noise ordinance at Mayor Robbie Perkins’ request.
A public information request for city correspondence around the ordinance and noise complaints, which included Carroll, revealed that as far as the paper trail is concerned, Carroll’s frustration with the club ultimately spawned the noise ordinance debate, and not a plethora of concerns as some have said. While the public records request does not cover telephone and face-to-face correspondence, and therefore isn’t a complete picture, it does reveal a significant amount about the process over the last four months.
“Mayor Perkins requested a text amendment regulating amplified noise from entertainment businesses,” Police Attorney Jim Clark wrote in a Jan. 30 email. “This is based on a complaint from Roy Carroll and others living near the Greene Street Bar due to its roof-top late night events.”
In a Jan. 12 email to then-Interim City Attorney Tom Pollard, Clark wrote, “I forgot to mention that I have a meeting with the antagonist principals over the noise ordinance (Roy Carroll and the owner of the Greene St. Bar whose name I can’t remember).”
The council postponed discussion on the noise ordinance from its last meeting, and isn’t expected to be discussed until early April.
Perkins, who lives in Carroll’s Center Pointe development across from Center City Park, may have had conversations with other Center Pointe residents and others throughout the city influencing his decision to take action, but city staff e-mails repeatedly refer to Carroll by name and discuss meeting with him and not other concerned residents. He has stated that Greene Street is too loud and cited it as his reason for advocating for a stricter ordinance.
Few other residents e-mailed city staff to complain about the noise ordinance since the current council took office, and those that did were focused on everything from barking dogs to a noisy frat house. Fewer than five people wrote complaints about downtown noise.
Center Pointe resident Theresa Yon said she first contacted the city about downtown noise in October 2009, and said some nights the music from Sky on Elm or Greene Street Club keeps her up at night in her 14th -floor apartment. A revised ordinance, like recent ones in Charlotte or Raleigh, could solve the issue, she said.
“We expect some noise living downtown, but when it’s one o’clock in the morning and you can hear every word of every song, it’s too loud,” Yon said in an interview. “Not one club in Raleigh or Charlotte has had to close because of new noise ordinances. It allows everybody to co-exist together.”
Yon also contacted the city to validate Carroll’s complaints, and the two are the only ones who received significant response from city staff, including Chief Ken Miller, Assistant City Manager Michael Speedling, Perkins, and Councilman Zack Matheny.
Miller, like others, sprang into gear over Carroll’s complaints, as a Dec. 9 e-mail to Speedling shows.
“Roy has just moved into his own building,” he wrote, referring to Center Pointe. “We’ll figure it all out, but I am inclined to start citing Greene Street each time we get a complaint, as the rooftop bar music can create a real problem and they can always manipulate the volume prior to our arrival if someone is listening on a police scanner.”
While Miller’s comment may emanate from genuine concern, citing any venue any time there was a complaint would allow one person’s endless calls to the police department to shut down an entire venue. Miller later said he considered 65 decibels to be a reasonable noise threshold, saying if the existing noise ordinance were enforced it should solve the problem.
Other e-mails indicate Miller wasn’t alone in thinking the proposed changes were too low. At about the time council first discussed the issue, Coliseum Deputy Director Scott Johnson wrote, “They need to know that 45 db is like a whisper.”
Carroll and other downtown residents, some of whom do not live in Center Pointe, retained lawyer Henry Isaacson to represent their interests in decreasing downtown noise. Isaacson said he did not help craft the proposed ordinance changes that went before council last month, but he has had conversations with the city manager, staff, attorney and council members about the residents’ concerns and is looking at examples from other cities.
Carroll began by calling the police department, and then making complaints to Capt. Brian James, via e-mail and in person, and to Speedling. According to one e-mail, police weren’t able to respond for two hours one night. When the allegation was investigated, police explained there were numerous other calls they had to respond to, but they subsequently made Greene Street a priority.
“This appears to be a reoccurring Sunday night situation in which the roof-top bar cranks up around midnight,” Carroll wrote to Speedling on Nov. 28 at about 1 a.m. “I would like for officers to be stationed in front of the club and monitor the noise for the next few Sunday nights. If the police department does not have noise monitors, I will be glad to donate monitors to the department so they can enforce the ordinance.”
Carroll contacted James again on a Thursday night, saying Greene Street was so loud his daughter couldn’t study for her exams.
“My sound meter that I now sleep with is measuring sound in the 75 to 80 decimal range that is a clear violation of the Greensboro noise ordinance,” he wrote on Dec. 8.
Early in the morning on Christmas Eve, Carroll e-mailed Speedling, copying James and Matheny among others, requesting a meeting about enforcing the noise ordinance the week of Jan. 9. The meeting was scheduled for Jan. 12 at Carroll Companies at 2:30 p.m. to accommodate Miller and Speedling’s schedules.
When asked about who contacted him in favor of a more restrictive ordinance, Matheny told YES! Weekly: “Roy hasn’t really reached out to me,” though Carroll’s e-mail, which Matheny responded to, proves otherwise.
Matheny continued to stay involved, e-mailing with Greene Street owner Robbie Efird Feb. 13 and asking if he was willing to compromise. Efird said he was meeting with a large group to discuss the issue and they would support a “realistic compromise.”
“This has been a constant source of complaints over the last few weeks after Greene Street opened it’s rooftop tent,” Perkins wrote. “Is it possible to put a 12:00 limit on outdoor amplification? Defining reasonable and using noise meters seems to be difficult to enforce. Is this something that can be addressed through existing ordinances or do we need Council action at our January 17th meeting?” While Perkins made vague reference to constant complaints, neither he nor other city employees refer to any other source of tension in terms of changing the ordinance besides Greene Street. Ten minutes later Speedling wrote back, warning, “I’m sure you are aware there will also be significant pushback from the business owners who invested in their places.”
Clark made some initial revisions, which Miller reviewed and sent back comments. In a Dec. 29 email to Speedling about the changes, Miller wrote, “When we get this where you and I are comfortable with it, I would like us to share it with Zack [Matheny] and Robbie [Perkins] to gauge their comfort level. I think we should do that in advance of our meeting with Carroll.”
On Dec. 10, Speedling told Yon he had asked Miller and the legal staff to modify the ordinance and had talked to Perkins, well before the meeting with Carroll but after the bulk of the complaints from Center Pointe.
“The way it is currently written leaves too much room for interpretation and makes enforcement difficult for police and residents,” Speedling wrote. “Your concerns do not fall on deaf ears.”
Earlier that day, Carroll had e-mailed a complaint that included a video to show how audible Greene Street was from Center Pointe.
“Please take immediate action,” Carroll said in the 1:33 a.m. e-mail. “The [police] officers just responded and… they did not feel the noise was unreasonable. They said ‘if you move downtown you should expect club noise.’ This is not acceptable. Please call me as soon as possible.”
The same day as Carroll’s meeting request, Perkins e-mailed Matheny, Speedling, Downtown Greensboro Inc. President Ed Wolverton and interim City Manager Denise Turner Roth.