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City drops ban on Rocket Market concerts

Music will be allowed again at a South Hill market – at least for three more shows.

A noise complaint forced the Rocket Market at High Drive and 43rd Avenue to discontinue live outdoor music last month. But on Wednesday, City Administrator Ted Danek asked the market’s owners if they would host a few more concerts to test noise levels. He said the data would be used to consider changes in the city’s noise ordinance and permitting rules.

Alan Shepherd, who owns the bakery with his wife, Shanda Shepherd, said Thursday he’s agreed to host shows each of the next three Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

City officials said under current noise rules, an outdoor show anywhere in town would be prohibited if anyone could hear it 50 feet away. The ordinance is typically enforced only when complaints are filed, officials added.

Each event also would need a $200 special permit, although the permits won’t be required for the three shows.

Danek said code enforcement officials will measure noise levels at the Rocket shows and at other venues and will give the data to the City Council.

“They’ll have real-life data to look at,” he said. “They’ll be better able to gauge the impact.”

Danek said the noise ordinance already was under review in response to the council’s decision last year to revoke a requirement for street musicians to buy licenses.

Councilman Richard Rush said he’s received about 50 e-mails from folks responding to the cease-and-desist order issued to the market. Most were critical of the move to shut down the summer concerts, but he said a few were from nearby residents expressing gratitude.

“A point we can’t forget, though, is just because some people like these events doesn’t mean everybody does,” Danek said. “The challenge is always trying to find a balance.”

Councilman Mike Allen said he’s hopeful rules can be crafted by next summer to allow shows to continue at Rocket Market, possibly with restrictions that might be based on a venue’s surroundings.

“If we can find a way to accommodate music at venues like the Rocket and allow people to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own property, then we’ll certainly do it,” Rush said.

Shepherd said he’s been offering live outdoor music for about 10 years and thought that his city cabaret license allowed him to do so. But after the city received a noise complaint, he was told that outdoor music was not covered by his license and that he would need to buy $200 special-event permits every time he scheduled a musician. This summer, he hosted music three times a week.

Shepherd said buying a $200 permit for each event would be cost prohibitive.

He called the city’s interpretation of the licensing requirements an “unbelievable, bureaucratic, bizarre sinkhole,” but he added he’s grateful for the new examination of the rules.