Council seeking potential changes to noise laws at night in downtown Burien


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By Jack Mayne

By a vote of 4 to 1, with Mayor Jimmy Matta and Councilmember Bob Edgar absent, the Burien City Council approved having the Burien city staff come back with potential changes in the city noise ordinance to allow some events after 10 p.m. on specified nights.

The Council also continued to look at potential changes in the way downtown alleys are maintained and improved.

Mayor Jimmy Matta was not at the Monday (March 18) meeting and no comment was made as to why he was absent. Deputy Mayor Austin Bell conducted the session. Also missing from the meeting was Councilmember Bob Edgar.

Noise ordinance changes?
Economic Development Manager Andrea Snyder told the Council that city staff is examining possible changes to the city’s noise ordinance to allow more public events extending into the evening because some have complained that the city’s law can prevent music in parks and other public events being staged in Burien. She said staff was asking Council whether they agreed changes should be made.

The current city ordinance defines what the city considers is “public disturbance noice” between 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. and penalties for violations, Snyder said. Public disturbance noise is any “noise which unreasonably disturbs, interferes with, injures of endangers the peace, comfort, health, repose, or safety of a person of reasonable sensitivities or that causes injury to damage to property or business.”

She added the staff is considering changing the ordinance only for special events scheduled at certain times. Snyder said a number of groups were asked their opinion, including in a community-wide survey, at the Farmer’s Market as well as at multifamily residences. The survey showed 48 percent approved changes for business and city approved events’ 28 said test for city only approved events and 24 percent said no changes should be made in the noise laws.

The option selected by the city staff is the option that “supports city policies that call for more events and promoting downtown Burien as the cultural focal point” because it “balances competing interests among Burien residents by establishing parameters for noise produced as a result of special events past 10 p.m., thereby limiting the negative impacts on residents.”

Other public disturbance noise would still be prohibited.

Krakowiak objects, seeking more input
Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak said she may be the only Councilmember who lives downtown and “has many concerns” that “we have not done enough to determine the impact” of time changes for louder noise. She noted that 71 people downtown answer the city survey is a “very small sample when there are approximately one thousand to two thousand people who live in the downtown core.”

She said there needs to be a better job of outreach and more done to determine the real impacts of the potential change.

“We don’t have enough information on this,” Krakowiak said, adding she was expecting only a discussion Monday night, not a proposal to vote on.

Councilmember Nancy Tosta said only 71 people in the survey will be directly affected by the change while the bulk of respondents live outside the downtown area.

The process of potential change should continue but more outreach may be needed said Councilmember Krystal Marx and moved to adopt the “past 10 p.m.” option and bring back to the Council and spur public response for any proposed changes or additions.

Alleys outlined
City Manager Brian Wilson brought up for Council discussion the city’s standards for use of alleys as access in new construction that came up in a previous session. Wilson said the discussion was to provide an overview of applicable standards, the road standards variance process, and the criteria for city staff to use when evaluating proposals that rely on alleys for primary access in the downtown area. The issue of alley came up at a recent meeting discussing “downtown” 152nd businesses.

City Attorney Lisa Marshall said “all alleys are not alike” and that alleys are used for utility and garbage access, some parking and, rarely, fire equipment access. They are not designed as streets and they are technically privately maintained but the city is often asked to maintain they and the city usually does. But the alleyways are generally in poor condition and it would cost a lot to bring them up to standards, she said.

Marshall said the alley requirements downtown “are very, very different … and do allow alleys for direct access to businesses while in main business area access is restricted to the main business entrance and not to secondary access.”

‘Enhanced services’ delayed
The Council held a public hearing on an ordinance previously approved that must take place soon after the passage of it, which was at the last Council meeting, March 4, but no one asked to testify.

The new ordinance establishes a six-month moratorium on the filing of applications for licenses or permits seeking approvals for any “enhanced services facility or similar activities in the city” Such “enhanced services facilities” are assisted living or comparable mental health business seeking to locate in Burien. At a previous meeting,
Councilmember Krystal Marx said such facilities are needed in but the moratorium gives time to find ways to best accommodate the enhanced services properties and not a sign the city is against mental health facilities.

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