Top Sources Of Noise Complaints

Few people understand how disruptive noise pollution is until they experience it firsthand. While noise pollution can occur at any time of the day, many victims experience it at night when they are unable to sleep due to the noise. Noise complaints are a big problem in Houston because the city does not have any zoning laws, meaning businesses can set up shop in the middle of neighborhoods.

The Houston Sound Ordinance

Zoning requirements may not restrict individuals and businesses, but everyone is expected to abide by the Houston Sound Ordinance. The Houston Sound Ordinance protects citizens from all types of noise, including cars and motor vehicles, music, animals, loud machinery, or any other type of disruptive noise. Sound cannot exceed 65 decibels during the day and 58 decibels during the night in residential areas. Permits can allow businesses to have sound up to 75 decibels until 10pm on Sunday through Thursday and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Top Sources of Noise Complaints

Thousands of noise complaints are made to the City of Houston each year regarding a wide variety of offenders. However, there are a few top offenders that make up most of the sound complaints.

Restaurants and bars are a common source of noise complaints for obvious reasons. These buildings not only house large numbers of people, but they often also feature loud music. Whether the music is live or recorded, it can easily exceed the maximum allowed noise levels. Because these places are often open late, neighbors often lose sleep over noise levels.

Noises complaints are also filed against buildings with noisy generators or HVAC systems. These types of machinery are extremely loud and often operate for hours at a time. All types of buildings, including grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping centers, among many others, utilize these types of machines, but they are still expected to keep noise levels within legal limits.

Specialty businesses, such as mechanics, gun ranges, and construction sites can also produce sound that is well over the legal limit. These locations utilize machines that create a lot of noise and steps must be taken to minimize noise disturbance.

Houston Noise Complaint Lawyers

There is no excuse for disturbing the peace. We have achieved success in multiple high-profile noise complaint cases in Houston. If a business is violating the Houston Sound Ordinance and refuses to abide by legal sound limits, contact Feldman & Feldman today to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your legal options.

Rights Citizens Have Under The Houston Sound Ordinance

In 2011, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker reported that the city receives approximately 60,000 noise complaints each year. To better address these sound complaints, the city passed major changes to the Houston Sound Ordinance in October 2011 to allow for better Houston Police Department (HPD) enforcement. Unfortunately, many Houstonians are unaware of their rights under the Houston Sound Ordinance.

Quick Facts About The Houston Sound Ordinance

The Houston Sound Ordinance protects citizens from all types of noises, such as cars and other motor vehicles, music whether live or amplified through speakers, animals, and other loud activities like those produced at a shooting range. When a noise complaint is made to HPD, law enforcement officers can issue citations without sound meters or sound measuring devices. Previously, police officers had to conduct a sound reading to determine if sound levels were in violation of the Sound Ordinance. Now, any law enforcement officer is permitted to use their best judgment when determining if a noise is too loud.

But just how loud is too loud? According to the Houston Sound Ordinance, sound cannot exceed 65 decibels during the day and 58 decibels at night in residential areas. Anything over this level requires a permit, and even with a permit there are restrictions. Permits can allow for sound up to 75 decibels until 10pm on Sundays through Thursdays and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Violators of the Houston Sound Ordinance can find themselves facing hefty fees, paying up to $1,000 for the first offense.

Making A Noise Complaint

Noise complaints can be made to the Houston Police Department’s non-emergency line at (713) 884-3131. HPD will then dispatch officers to address the complaint. Citizens should not hold back when reporting disruptive noises and protecting their rights. Under the Houston Sound Ordinance, it is “unlawful for any person to make, continue, or cause to be made or continued any loud, unnecessary, or unusual noise that annoys, disturbs, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of others.”

Unfortunately, some individuals and businesses will continue to violate the Houston Sound Ordinance even after numerous citations. This was the case for the White Oak Music Hall, which was disturbing its neighbors in the Houston Heights. At Feldman & Feldman, we take citizens’ rights very seriously. That’s why we represented Heights homeowners against the White Oak Music Hall and obtained a successful settlement that preserves the peace of the neighborhood.

Upholding The Houston Sound Ordinance

Because Houston does not have any zoning laws, homeowners can find themselves next door to noisy businesses, but this doesn’t mean they’re without legal rights to peace and quiet. If you are struggling with noise complaints in your neighborhood, contact us today to see how we can help.

Attorney Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman Fights for Neighborhoods in White Oak Music Hall Nuisance Case

Originally Published by KPRC Channel 2

The legal battle surrounding a controversial near northside concert venue continues this week as attorneys representing a group of residents who live near the venue, seek to put an end to its operations.

A hearing in Harris County civil court began Thursday morning, in which a judge must decide whether or not to grant a temporary injunction to stop all concerts at the White Oak Music Hall, until the end of a trial regarding a lawsuit filed by a group of residents who say the venue creates too much noise.

A start date for the trial has not yet been set.

On Thursday, several residents who live near White Oak Music Hall took the stand, describing how the concert venue has negatively impacted their lives since it opened last spring.

One resident, a former Navy pilot who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and tinnitus, said the noise level from the concerts keeps his young family up at night, which creates stress, then triggers his health issues.

Another resident said the noise and crowds from the concerts negatively impacts her autistic child, who is sensitive to loud noises.

“The whole neighborhood is experiencing sleepless nights and there are children with special needs who are being traumatized by this situation, who literally go into meltdown mode,” said Chris Feldman, the attorney representing the near north side residents.

Feldman announced the lawsuit on behalf of the residents last month.

It came after the city of Houston gave the green light to White Oak Music Hall to erect a permanent outdoor stage, despite months of complaints from neighbors who say the loud noise traumatizes children and lowers property values.

“Our house was built in the 1920s, it was a very quiet, little idyllic neighborhood, that has changed dramatically since the music hall opened,” said Brett Clanton, who lives three blocks away from the concert venue.

Late Thursday, the courtroom also listened to, and watched, body camera video from a Houston police officer who was responding to a noise complaint at a home near White Oak Music Hall, on the night of a concert.

In the video you can hear the music playing loudly.

In mid-December, a judge issued a temporary restraining order that prohibited the use of the venue’s outdoor stage, but that order has since expired.

In the meantime, the concert venue has already booked its first outdoor show of 2017, set for May 20.

Venue representatives have said they are working with the city and will continue to work with the city to make sure the operation is in compliance with all regulations.

Johnny So, a White Oak Music Hall spokesperson, told members of the media on Thursday: “White Oak Music Hall is a project supported by a variety of residents, musicians and music fans. Today is just a preliminary hearing and we’re as eager as anybody else to go to a full trial as soon as possible.”

The hearing for the temporary injunction continues Friday at 9 a.m.

White Oak Residents to File Bond to Preserve Silent Nights

Originally Published by The Houston  Chronicle

Families from three Houston neighborhoods spent Sunday in the frigid cold raising money for the legal fight against the developers of the outdoor White Oak Music Hall.

Monday morning at 10:30 a.m., Houston Attorney Cris Feldman will join neighborhood representatives on the steps of the Harris County Civil Courthouse to address the media.

Feldman will call on Mayor Turner to yank permits for an outdoor permanent stage. “It is time for the Mayor to choose,” says Feldman. “Will he stand with the children who just want a good night’s sleep, or with the greedy developers who put an outdoor concert hall in the middle of established working class neighborhoods.”

Residents hosted a community garage and bake sale to help raise the $7,500 bond to enforce their recent restraining order against White Oak Music Hall.

Harris County State District Judge Michael Gomez on Friday temporarily stopped outdoor concerts at the White Oak Music Hall after nine neighbors sued the venue, preventing the live music complex from hosting any events outside that feature electronically amplified sound.

Gomez, the Harris County judge, made his decision despite objections from the music hall, which argued it could lose its reputation and revenue.

The temporary restraining order expires Dec. 30, but residents are looking to extend it until their Jan. 12 injunction hearing.

They are trying to raise money for legal fees “for the big courtroom battles ahead.”

“This is ongoing, thunderous music that shakes homes,” said Houston attorney Cris Feldman. “It’s a constant rock festival in everyone’s backyard.”

“We never know, the noise could come on a Monday, a Wednesday night, a Friday,” said Kiki Przewlocki, a resident who said her home is in the music’s “direct line of fire.” “The windows rattle … I mean, I can feel the bass in my bones.”

Przewlocki, a musician, said it’s not just the music, but the collective frustrations that different events at White Oak bring to the neighborhood, even on school nights.

That’s why another neighbor, Linda Longoria-Vargas, joined their effort. The night before the first day of school this year, Longoria-Vargas had to console her young daughter who was crying and couldn’t sleep.

“Mommy, don’t they even care about us?” her daughter said.

If the sporadic loud noises weren’t enough, there’s also the neighborhood traffic and safety concerns that accompany the venue’s functions. Neighbors also complained that some concert-goers urinate in front yards and on neighbors’ cars.

“It doesn’t actually end with the concert,” Longoria-Vargas said. “You still hear cops, or screaming, or dogs.”

On Sunday, residents sold everything from cookies and doughnuts to school supplies and mini-terracotta soldiers.

“It is sad that these good folks have to now raise money to stop this sound invasion from their greedy corporate neighbors, just so their kids can sleep at night,” Feldman said.

The Noise Must Stop

“The noise must stop”, says Cris Feldman. “Hundreds of families, some with challenged children, have had their lives turned upside down by the constant amplified noise and thumping bass at this outdoor concert hall,” says Feldman. “The City of Houston should have never allowed this to happen. We will fight to stop this public nuisance in the courtroom.”

Originally Published in The Houston Chronicle

The White Oak Music Hall was forced to pull the plug on outdoor amplified music – at least temporarily – after a Harris County judge ruled Friday that noise from concerts would cause “imminent” harm to the neighbors.

District Judge Michael Gomez issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits White Oak from playing amplified music on its outdoor stage for about two weeks. The order was sought by 10 neighbors who sued White Oak Music Hall and developers WOIH Partners, claiming that the music complex at 2915 N. Main has created a nuisance and interfered with their property rights.

The residents, who are seeking class action status, are ultimately seeking a permanent order to stop the venue from playing amplified music on an outdoor stage.

The court found that the residents would be “irreparably injured” if the temporary restraining order was not issued because it would cause “unreasonable discomfort and disturbance” from the “loud and disruptive noise” coming from the events at the music hall. The restraining order allows the music hall to host a previously scheduled event on Saturday, which is the only event scheduled before the order expires Dec. 30.

The music hall objected to the restraining order, saying that news would spread in the entertainment community and damage the hall’s ability to line up new acts. The owners said in a statement that they operate within the confines of Houston’s sound ordinance and do not believe the concerts produce unreasonable noise.

White Oak Music Hall, a complex that includes Raven Tower, a bar and live music venue, an indoor hall and a large outdoor stage, was developed with economic development funds provided by the city. Since it opened earlier this year, it has sparked neighborhood complaints of window-rattling noise from outdoor shows. Residents also argue that the developers have flouted city rules and cause parking and traffic congestion in the area dominated by single-family homes. The Houston Police Department has issued several citations to the venue for violating the sound ordinance.

The two-hour hearing was conducted in front of Gomez’s bench, which made it difficult to hear at times for the neighbors gathered in the courtroom. At one point Gomez took a five minute break and asked the parties to try to work out a solution. They came back to say they couldn’t reach a deal.

In granting the temporary restraining order, Gomez told Marrick Armstrong, the Pearland lawyer representing White Oak Music Hall, that the music complex could have resolved the problem before it got to court but instead continued to create noise problems for the neighborhood that are affecting property values.

“You seem one step behind on what is happening here,” Gomez said.

Neighbors praised the ruling. “I feel like this is a really great victory,” said Theresa Cavin, a plaintiff who lives about a block away from the music hall. Cavin has a nine-year-old son who has autism. During the outdoor shows, she said, he goes inside a closet and wraps towels around his head to handle the noise pulsing from the venue several times a week.

In the hearing, Armstrong disagreed that the music is loud. He also argued that some of the performances are not organized concerts, such as a Thursday night show with four guitar players. “It wasn’t a show, show,” said Armstrong, drawing laughs from people in the courtroom.

Cris Feldman, the lawyer representing the neighbors, played an excerpt of the four-member musical group recorded from the bedroom of one of his clients.

“That is not somebody’s bedroom,” Armstrong responded. Feldman shot back: “You don’t know.”

The city of Houston helped to finance the venue by agreeing to reimburse the developers up to $1.1 million for public improvements to sidewalks, landscaping and street lighting and for an upgrade to the public sanitary-sewer line. In exchange for the funds, the developers agreed to hold at least one fair for the community, offer at least four rehearsal times for John Marshall Middle school and Northside High School and allow roughly 500 parking spots to be used by the public on days the hall is not used.

Under the terms of the agreement between the city and the music hall, the venue can be used only Thursday through Saturday, among other restrictions.

Neighbors contend that the city has not aggressively enforced the noise ordinance because of its investment in the project. City officials did not respond to a request for comment.

In court documents, lawyers for the developers argued, in part, that the residents are asking the court to “usurp” the authority of the city of Houston for granting a permit to build an outdoor stage. They invoked a 2014 decision in Harris County against the residents who filed suit against the Ashby high-rise, the tower planned in a neighborhood near Rice University. The judge in that case said that it would not stop the 21-story tower from being built in the residential neighborhood. The White Oak developers say the same arguments apply in this case.

A temporary injunction hearing is set for Jan. 12.

Feldman & Feldman Files Major Lawsuit Against White Oak Music Hall

Originally Published by The Houston Press

After months of complaining about the annoyance, neighbors in Near Northside have sued White Oak Music Hall developers, seeking to permanently stop the construction of an outdoor stage or any future outdoor events at the expansive music-venue playground.

The complex — an indoor music hall, an outdoor stage under construction and the stage and patio at Raven Tower — has held shows since January, including some outdoor festivals. Calling it “essentially a bar with really big amps all over the place,” the residents’ attorney, Cris Feldman, said children have been kept awake, people’s houses shake and parents can no longer enjoy a quiet evening.

“Since this opened in January of 2016,” he said, “thunderous bass and amplified noise has ricocheted through the Near Northside, jumping nine lanes of I-45 into the Woodland Heights. This should have never been permitted in the first place, and these citizens are filing suit to stop it. No more outside noise. Everybody wants to return to their normal lives.”

Feldman said the developers of the White Oak have not been held accountable for sound-ordinance violations and that the ordinance has been poorly enforced. The suit is being brought on public- and private-nuisance grounds, and alleges that the amplified noise from outdoor shows interferes with homeowner property rights since the noise and resulting vibrations are so invasive.

In a statement sent by White Oak Music Hall spokeswoman Erin Woolsey, from the PR firm On The Mark Communications, the music venue denied the accusations that it had violated sound ordinances and said the developers will continue to comply once the permanent stage is complete.

Families with small children gathered in front of White Oak Music Hall’s front doors to tell reporters how the concerts, attended by thousands, have disrupted their homes.

One mother, Theresa Cavin, said her autistic nine-year-old son sometimes hides under the coffee table or inside his closet, with a towel wrapped over his ears, to block it out.

“Austin…is very noise-sensitive, and this impacts him more than any of us in our household,” Cavin said. “Sometimes he’s aggressive if he didn’t get a good night sleep the night before. So there are lots of things this venue has caused us to go through, and it’s just really disruptive to his whole life and our whole family.”

Other parents said their kids crawl into bed with them on nights when there are outdoor concerts — which often go past 10 p.m. — and that, on one occasion, there was a show before the standardized STAAR test.

After the press conference, Cavin and her son, Austin, did the honors of taping a notice to appear in court on White Oak’s glass door. A hearing for the temporary restraining order is set for today to block further construction on the outdoor stage. Houston building permitting officials approved White Oak’s plans for the construction after the venue skirted the city permitting process with its earlier, temporary stage.

No shows are currently scheduled on the lawn. Upcoming shows at the Raven Tower pavilion or patio, however, include Bayou Saints on Saturday and American Wrestlers and NE-HI on January 13.

Music lovers, not to worry: Feldman said the neighbors are not seeking to dismantle shows at the indoor stages. “For now,” he added.