Langley is too noisy, some residents say

There’s too much noise in downtown Langley, residents told the Langley City Council at its meeting Monday night.

Debbie Zick, speaking for herself and on behalf of other downtown residents, said amplified music played outdoors in various areas around the city is too loud much of the time and often runs too late into the evening.

She also complained about “industrial noise,” shouting and loud music coming, often late at night, from the new Fire House Studio and Gallery, a glass-blowing operation that recently moved into a portion of the city’s old fire station on Second Street.

“What is the future of Langley?” Zick asked the council. “What kind of city do we want to be?”

Zick, a resident of the Brookhaven apartment complex between Third and Fourth streets, said Langley “was a peaceful, quiet town” when she moved there three years ago.

“The noise level has increased dramatically and wantonly,” she said, singling out outdoor amplified music at Useless Bay Coffee Company, Island Coffee House & Books and other businesses on Second Street.

She said loud amplified music for community events such as Whidbey Island Arts Council’s Concerts in the Lane at Island Angel Chocolates, Choochokam Arts Festival and Friday evening concerts at the park at Second Street and Anthes Avenue have become intolerable at times.

“The amplified music goes on for months,” Zick said. “With unregulated volume, there are no guarantees how your life will be impacted.”

She said that while city law requires that music be kept at a “reasonable” volume level, especially after hours, “that level is allowed to be determined by the person playing the music.”

She said the noise ordinance lays out specific decibel levels, but that the city owns no decibel meter to check those levels.

As for the glass-blowers, Zick said: “The city needs a business in the firehouse that wishes to be a good neighbor.”

She said while the noises may increase revenue for some business, it detracts from others. And she said the turnover rate in rental housing may also increase because of the noise.

“Living in the Langley core district has become stressful,” Zick concluded. “My preference, if I were able, would be to move.”

While others in the audience agreed with Zick that noise levels should be regulated, they voiced support for the city’s efforts to create a lively environment for culture and education.

“Foot traffic is up in Langley,” said Fred Lundahl, president of the Langley Chamber of Commerce. “People who come to town say they enjoy the fact that there’s music.”

Paul Schell, a Langley resident and former Seattle mayor who owns the Inn at Langley, said he also supports music in the city.

“But after 9 o’clock, people need space,” he added. “Langley has always been a place where interesting people are doing interesting things, but we need to find a balance.”

“One person’s noise is another person’s beauty,” said Wayne Boddie, a downtown Langley resident for the past five years.

“But music brings people to town,” he added. “We’re getting into a kind of Gordian Knot here.”

Another downtown resident, who declined to give her name, said several older people in the neighborhood such as herself are ill and need their rest.

Zick presented a list of several suggestions to alleviate the noise problem, including regulation of outdoor music, the substitution of acoustic for amplified music and designating Sunday as a quiet day in the downtown core.

She also suggested the city purchase a decibel meter.

The downtown Langley situation is but the latest in a series of noise complaints around South Whidbey this year, including disgruntlement over the sounds of fireworks, lawn equipment, chainsaws, barking dogs and shooting at the Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club outside the downtown area.

Mayor Paul Samuelson stressed that the issue isn’t about music, it’s about noise. He promised to include the issue on an upcoming council agenda so that official review of the city’s law could begin.

“It has to be addressed, no doubt about that,” Councilman Russell Sparkman agreed.

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