After a furious four-year debate that pitted neighbors against weekend revelers, Brooklyn Park has banned amplified sound in all of its parks.
Until now, residents could rent two outdoor pavilions at Oak Grove Park for weddings, graduation parties, reunions and other events. Revelers often brought microphones, speakers and even DJ equipment for speeches and music.
The park space offered an affordable place to host events, but homeowners surrounding the park say it created nonstop noise, often all weekend long. And some groups ignored a 9 p.m. shut-off time and rules limiting attendance to 60 people per pavilion, city staff said.
Brooklyn Park had previously looked at the issue of enhanced sound at parks and in 2011 decided to make Oak Grove the exclusive venue for these types of events.
But that only amplified the problem there, neighbors say. In 2014, the city issued 20 special event permits for the park. All but one also had a permit for amplified sound.
The City Council voted for the ban last week after a lengthy discussion and a review of staff research on the number of parties and noise complaints. Police were called to Oak Grove for noise and disturbing-the-peace complaints on six occasions last year.
Several members of the council, including Mayor Jeff Lunde, said they visited homes during loud events to assess the noise level firsthand.
Another visitor was Mark Wendt, chairman of the city’s Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission, which in December voted to recommend the ban.
“I’ve been out several times to homes around the parks when there were [noise complaint] calls,” Wendt said. “My experience is it’s loud. I would be more than disappointed if one of those homes was mine. I entered one home and you literally could not hear their television.”
At last week’s meeting, one resident did ask the City Council not to pass the ban, noting that the park is a popular gathering spot for community groups. Several council members lamented that the ban eliminated an affordable venue for residents but said the homeowners’ rights tipped the scales.
Council members expressed displeasure that oftentimes party planners seemed to be breaking city rules limiting noise and that sometimes deposit checks written to the city would bounce because of insufficient funds. It costs $300 to rent a pavilion and an additional $300 deposit that would be forfeited for litter and noise violations. The city kept three deposits in 2014 but staff said deposit checks did frequently bounce.
“People do have a right to enjoy their home,” said Council Member Mike Trepanier.
Sarah Nuernberg spoke on behalf of the neighborhood. The Nuernbergs built their home on the park in 2009 and say they couldn’t use their back yard most weekends in the summer because the parties were so loud and often rowdy.
“We have no interest in being outside on weekends or planning events for our family. It is taken over by sounds from the park,” said Nuernberg, describing how they keep windows closed and curtains drawn in an often unsuccessful attempt to mitigate the intrusion.
She said the revelers often are not respectful of their natural setting.
“When this is happening, there seems to be a complete disregard of the park area. There is garbage everywhere, utensils, things that are not safe from a playground perspective,” Nuernberg said.
A different view
Brooklyn Park resident Nur Mohamed was the person who spoke of the park’s role as a community gathering place. He said a suburb of 78,000 people needs this kind of facility.
“In this city we don’t have any other place that can play amplified sound. We are channeling everyone to go to that park,” Mohamed said.
Council members did say they’d like staff to look into other possible locales for amplified sound.
“I think we do need to find the right spot,” Mayor Lunde said.