Parks Amplification Permit

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Amplified Sound Permits FAQ • April 2021

Public Comment

Parks and Recreation has required a permit to host amplified sound, like band concerts, speeches or festivals in community parks for the last 30 years. The permit helps ensure that park users comply with the City noise ordinance. Amplified sound through a public address system is allowed only in community parks, including Bonner Park Bandshell, Fort Missoula Regional Park, Playfair Park, McCormick Park, Silver Park, Caras, Bess Reed, BN Plaza and Memorial Rose Garden Park.

In the past, the amplified sound permit has been a park rule. The proposed ordinance makes the amplified sound permit a law, subject to enforcement and penalties.

The City Council is accepting public comment on the proposed addition to Chapter 12.40, City Park ordinances, to create a subsection 12.40.065, which requires Parks and Recreation to issue a permit for Sound Amplification in or on the Missoula Parks, Trails or Conservation Lands that allow amplified sound.

The proposed ordinance applies ONLY to speech or music that is amplified/broadcast through a public address system in community parks.

It does not regulate acoustic (non-amplified) musical instruments, non-amplified speech or music, or music played through a portable device at low volume for a small group.

Draft proposed ordinance

A. Unless used by Authorized Persons with the authorization of the Director of the City Parks and Recreation Department, the following activities are prohibited in any Missoula city park, trail, or conservation lands, without express written permission of Parks and Recreation Director or his or her designee. The City Parks and Recreation Board or City Parks and Recreation Director may establish administrative operating rules and policies in addition to the prohibitions set forth herein.

29. Amplified sound is prohibited in Missoula Parks with the exception of listed Community Parks; Bonner Park Bandshell, Fort Missoula Regional Park, Playfair Park, McCormick Park, Silver Park, Caras, Bess Reed, BN Plaza and Rose Memorial Park and any other park designated by the Parks and Recreation Director or his or her designee. An Amplified Sound Permit is required in the listed parks and may be obtained for the use of public address (PA) systems or stereo systems.

History and Background

Historically, Parks has required an Amplified Sound Permit as a Parks and Recreation Policy for at least 30 years.

Section 2.5 of the Parks and Recreation Master Fee Schedule, titled Amplified Sound, is adopted by resolution each year through a public process and hearing.

In June of 2019, the City Council amended Chapter 12.40 City Park ordinances. The Amplified Sound permit was inadvertently left out of the adopted ordinances.

Therefore, this ordinance will amend 12.40 to create a subsection 12.40.065, which requires Parks and Recreation to issue a permit for Sound Amplification in or on the Missoula Parks, Trails or Conservation Lands that allow amplified sound.

What does the proposed ordinance and amplification permit do?

The permit regulates when, where, how long, how loud amplified sound can occur in parks and ensures that park users comply with the City's noise ordinance.

The ordinance applies to large public events that are allowed in Community Parks. Community Parks include Bonner Park (Bandshell), Fort Missoula Regional Park, Playfair Park, McCormick Park, Silver Park, Caras Park, Bess Reed Park, BN Plaza and Memorial Rose Garden Park.

•Parks does not issue amplification permits for neighborhood parks where there is generally no buffer between the park and residential housing.

Most neighborhood park visitors are considerate of the fact that houses are so close to the park. In general, park users who play music at their gatherings, say from an acoustic guitar or perhaps a small phone speaker, keep the volume low and are careful not to disturb adjacent neighbors.

The Department has received very few noise complaints over the years from neighborhood parks, but the complaints received are generally serious.

Law enforcement response to noise ordinance violations is generally complaint-driven—meaning law enforcement would respond only if they receive a noise complaint.

This ordinance provides a tool to law enforcement to help protect other park users' rights and those living next to city parks.

The city noise ordinance states it best: "It is the public policy of the city that every person is entitled to live in an environment where ambient noise levels are not detrimental of life, health and enjoyment of his property and community."

The Missoula Downtown Association manages Caras Park. Working with the City's Extraordinary Events Committee, they engage with surrounding neighborhoods to be respectful, comply with the Noise Ordinance and mitigate sound via a mix of volume control, speaker direction, hours, and duration. Contact the MDA at 543-4238 for more information.


Amplified Sound Permits FAQ • April 2021

Public Comment

Parks and Recreation has required a permit to host amplified sound, like band concerts, speeches or festivals in community parks for the last 30 years. The permit helps ensure that park users comply with the City noise ordinance. Amplified sound through a public address system is allowed only in community parks, including Bonner Park Bandshell, Fort Missoula Regional Park, Playfair Park, McCormick Park, Silver Park, Caras, Bess Reed, BN Plaza and Memorial Rose Garden Park.

In the past, the amplified sound permit has been a park rule. The proposed ordinance makes the amplified sound permit a law, subject to enforcement and penalties.

The City Council is accepting public comment on the proposed addition to Chapter 12.40, City Park ordinances, to create a subsection 12.40.065, which requires Parks and Recreation to issue a permit for Sound Amplification in or on the Missoula Parks, Trails or Conservation Lands that allow amplified sound.

The proposed ordinance applies ONLY to speech or music that is amplified/broadcast through a public address system in community parks.

It does not regulate acoustic (non-amplified) musical instruments, non-amplified speech or music, or music played through a portable device at low volume for a small group.

Draft proposed ordinance

A. Unless used by Authorized Persons with the authorization of the Director of the City Parks and Recreation Department, the following activities are prohibited in any Missoula city park, trail, or conservation lands, without express written permission of Parks and Recreation Director or his or her designee. The City Parks and Recreation Board or City Parks and Recreation Director may establish administrative operating rules and policies in addition to the prohibitions set forth herein.

29. Amplified sound is prohibited in Missoula Parks with the exception of listed Community Parks; Bonner Park Bandshell, Fort Missoula Regional Park, Playfair Park, McCormick Park, Silver Park, Caras, Bess Reed, BN Plaza and Rose Memorial Park and any other park designated by the Parks and Recreation Director or his or her designee. An Amplified Sound Permit is required in the listed parks and may be obtained for the use of public address (PA) systems or stereo systems.

History and Background

Historically, Parks has required an Amplified Sound Permit as a Parks and Recreation Policy for at least 30 years.

Section 2.5 of the Parks and Recreation Master Fee Schedule, titled Amplified Sound, is adopted by resolution each year through a public process and hearing.

In June of 2019, the City Council amended Chapter 12.40 City Park ordinances. The Amplified Sound permit was inadvertently left out of the adopted ordinances.

Therefore, this ordinance will amend 12.40 to create a subsection 12.40.065, which requires Parks and Recreation to issue a permit for Sound Amplification in or on the Missoula Parks, Trails or Conservation Lands that allow amplified sound.

What does the proposed ordinance and amplification permit do?

The permit regulates when, where, how long, how loud amplified sound can occur in parks and ensures that park users comply with the City's noise ordinance.

The ordinance applies to large public events that are allowed in Community Parks. Community Parks include Bonner Park (Bandshell), Fort Missoula Regional Park, Playfair Park, McCormick Park, Silver Park, Caras Park, Bess Reed Park, BN Plaza and Memorial Rose Garden Park.

•Parks does not issue amplification permits for neighborhood parks where there is generally no buffer between the park and residential housing.

Most neighborhood park visitors are considerate of the fact that houses are so close to the park. In general, park users who play music at their gatherings, say from an acoustic guitar or perhaps a small phone speaker, keep the volume low and are careful not to disturb adjacent neighbors.

The Department has received very few noise complaints over the years from neighborhood parks, but the complaints received are generally serious.

Law enforcement response to noise ordinance violations is generally complaint-driven—meaning law enforcement would respond only if they receive a noise complaint.

This ordinance provides a tool to law enforcement to help protect other park users' rights and those living next to city parks.

The city noise ordinance states it best: "It is the public policy of the city that every person is entitled to live in an environment where ambient noise levels are not detrimental of life, health and enjoyment of his property and community."

The Missoula Downtown Association manages Caras Park. Working with the City's Extraordinary Events Committee, they engage with surrounding neighborhoods to be respectful, comply with the Noise Ordinance and mitigate sound via a mix of volume control, speaker direction, hours, and duration. Contact the MDA at 543-4238 for more information.


Public Comment Accepted through April 12

This ordinance applies ONLY to speech or music that is amplified/broadcast through a public address system in community parks. Comments will be shared with the City Council.

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    On the proposed Park Amplification & Permit ordinance, I do understand and appreciate the good intentions arising out this new proposed ordinance. It is encouraging to find these sort of complaints occur quite rarely, and appear to be limited primarily to one Park site (Kiwanis). I would respectfully like to offer consideration of an alternative strategy, to indefinitely postpone adoption of a Park Amplification ordinance as proposed, and instead rely on the protocols that have successfully been in place for years, per the points below on existing ordinances. Postponing immediate adoption would be useful to give a wider public (especially musician) stakeholders more time (than these few days left until April 12 2021) weigh in on this. More importantly, it would give you and the City Council time to further consider the overlapping role of the already existing Missoula Title 9 ordinance language that seems directly overlapping and pertinent to a Park Amplification law; e.g. the (https://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/DocumentCenter/View/1030/Municipal-Code-Title-09-Peace-Morals--Welfare?bidId=#Chapter_9_30), Sections 9.30, Noise Control, and related Sections 9.32.0 (subsections 9.32.010 and 9.32.020). By my reading, these ordinances already directly address “sound/noise” compliance thresholds, protocols, enforcement, and penalties. In addition, they broadly apply to the entire City, not just Parks, on my assumption that the Title 9 (Sec 9.30 and 9.32) city wide ordinances include by reference all Park sites named, and since Parks, trails, etc are not explicitly excluded (recognizing that separate Title 12 language does apply just to the Parks). I found it a little curious that the Park Amplification ordinance (March 4 2021) Referral document, section “Background and Alternatives Explored” while providing some background, failed to actually mention any Alternatives, or mention the existence or role of these pertinent MMC Title 9 ordinances (Sec 9.30 and the subsections noted below) already in place and presumably enforced. The MMC Title 9 provisions I cite here -- subsections 9.30.030, 9.30.040, 9.30.050, 9.30.060, 9.30.70 all focus exclusively and comprehensively on potential nuisance sound/noise related issues, and reference compliance via detailed dB thresholds, as well as permitting, enforcement, and a hefty violation penalty. As such, these 9.30.x, 9.32.x ordinances in place now seem to me to represent exactly the enforcement tools sought by the Parks Amplification language and penalty (Title 9 subsection 9.30.080) for violation of same. I would therefore think it would be considered a real “win” to avoid enacting a redundant ordinance, particularly one that doesn’t diminish out-of-compliance sound sources so much as just registers their occurrence, at the expense of a music community that is already perennially cash-strapped.

    joe-glassy asked 6 months ago

    Thanks for your comments, they've been forwarded to the City Council.

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    I oppose this law. If the issue is really noise, then simply charging a fee to make the noise will not solve it. But this really seems to be about discrimination against the poorest Missoulians, who are trying to make a few bucks. Musicians are part of the cultural backbone of Missoula. I make a substantial portion of my income playing for tips. I am a single mother and that extra little bit of money I can get on a summer day in the park can make a world of difference to keep my son in decent shoes, pay the electric bill, etc. Locations like Caras Park have traditionally been open to musicians, who politely use small amplification systems. We police ourselves and each other very effectively. Audiences gather and LOVE it. It is a valuable addition to the parks and part of what makes us human. For example, I have a battery pack that I can use to operate my small speaker. My voice is very light, and so people cannot hear me at all unless I use a microphone. I have learned I can't make any money busking unless I use this mic and a small amount of volume. This law would effect me greatly. Musicians who are on the street or at parks busking are often doing it because they desperately need the money. Charging $48 will be very prejudicial to the poorest Missoulians. Also, I fear that using it as an "enforcement" tool will disproportionately impact people of color, the poor and other groups that have a history of being persecuted by police. How can the police know whether someone has called in a noise complaint simply because the person with the boom box is Black? Or because they don't like a specific genre of music? The slippery slope here towards discrimination is dangerous. You have many other tools on the books (such as disorderly conduct) to deal with bad actors. You don't need to penalize the whole city and most especially the artist who make our town what it is.

    Britt Arnesen asked 6 months ago

    Hello Britt, thank you for your comments. We will share them with the City Council.

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    Missoula once had a vibrant and energetic music community, in recent years however it seems the only music community anyone in local government has been interested in is the corporate monstrosity that has become the Wilma and the Top Hat, and very nearly the events center. When you combine this corporate whore mongering with a global pandemic that has crippled and destroyed nearly 100% of live music, theater, and other types of performance art, we’re living in a city that is barely recognizable as the safe haven that it once was for artists and musicians. Furthermore as a city that prides itself on inclusivity and forward thinking, demanding a fee to amplify free speech (charging a fee on the free exercise of a federally guaranteed right was ruled unconstitutional under Murdock v. Pennsylvania p.319 US 113, p. 319 US 115, p. 319 US 116, 1943) such as that which would be made in opposition to oppression or in protest to unacceptable circumstance, is not only a tax on a constitutionally protected right, but it clearly sends the message to the disenfranchised that their voice will be squashed if they cannot afford to pay. It clearly says to those who would gather in the name of liberty that their liberty comes at a premium, a financial premium which lines the pockets of those who claim to protect the freedoms for which they are crying out. The theft of a right for the basis of profiteering is immoral, and should be unconscionable to Americans, to freedom loving patriots who are sworn to stand with the values on which this country was founded. These spaces are PUBLIC property, and yet this city continues to demand more from the people the property already belongs to. The city government is not the public, they are servants of the public, and it would do them well to remember that.

    RevGTuxbury asked 6 months ago

    Thanks for your comments, we will forward them to the City Council.

Page last updated: 06 April 2021, 18:03