Cowan files noise complaint over music at weekend event

Published 9:34 am Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The beat played on through the Covered Bridge Celebration even though a noise complaint was filed Friday night claiming the music coming from the festival was an “annoyance.”

Tom Cowan, who lives next door to Covered Bridge Park and is involved in an ongoing legal battle regarding the new stage there, called the Elizabethton Police Department at 8:11 p.m. Friday about the music from the Covered Bridge Celebration.

EPD Capt. Jerry Bradley was dispatched to 111 S. Main St. to speak with Cowan. When Bradley arrived, Cowan gave him a copy of the city’s anti-noise ordinance and said “the music being played at the Covered Bridge Festival was an annoyance to him.”

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“I advised Mr. Cowan that the music being played in the park was a city-sanctioned event,” Bradley said. “I informed Mr. Cowan that I would document his complaint, however, the event would continue as scheduled.”

According to an EPD records clerk, this was the only noise complaint made during the festival.

City ordinance 11-202 does stipulate that the use of “any musical instrument or sound device, including but not limited to loudspeakers or other devices for reproduction or amplification of sound” cannot be used, especially between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., if they annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of any person in the vicinity. However, an amplification permit is available to allow nonprofit and noncommercial use of speakers, or for a city-sanctioned event.

The Covered Bridge Celebration did acquire that amplification permit, Chamber of Commerce Director Tonya Stevens said.

“We had the certificate that granted us the ability to play music,” Stevens said. “We were respectful of that. If we saw that we were getting behind in the program, we made cuts so that we could meet the deadline.”

The Covered Bridge Celebration entertainment was scheduled to end by 10:30 p.m. each night of the festival. The permit allows for use of speakers and amplification until 11 p.m.

City Manager Jerome Kitchens said the amplification permit has been on the city’s books for years and by granting the Covered Bridge Celebration a permit, it offered the celebration an extra level of protection.

“The Covered Bridge Celebration was approved in its entirety by City Council,” Kitchens said. “We went ahead and gave it a permit to answer any questions that might have arisen. Everyone knew what the Covered Bridge Celebration was going to be.”

This is not the first time Cowan has called the EPD for a noise complaint in the Covered Bridge Park. On Saturday, June 6, he filed a complaint with the EPD after music from a wedding rehearsal was “annoying” to him.

According to the police report by EPD Sgt. Shane Darling, the noise complaint came at 12:21 p.m. on June 6.  At that time, Cowan told officers there was a person playing music through speakers and pointed out the same section in the city codes on disturbing the peace and anti-noise regulations that prohibit that.

Darling then spoke with the musician and the groom who said the gazebo had been reserved for a wedding. Darling, along with pair from the wedding party, went back to Cowan to try to reach an agreement.

“I pointed out to Cowan that the statute states the noise must ‘annoy, disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of any person in any…residence’,” Darling said. “Cowan stated the music did annoy him.”

Cowan was then informed the wedding party was willing to play acoustically and not use a microphone, but Cowan said that would “annoy” him as well, Darling said. 

Darling then informed Cowan the couple had the right to hold their wedding, and he could file another complain if he believed the noise from the ceremony was annoying.

The wedding was held at 4 p.m. as scheduled, but with no amplification for the ceremony. No further complaints were filed on that date.

On May 21, Cowan appeared in Chancery Court trying to obtain a temporary injunction on the stage to stop the use of the facility, and to eventually have the stage dismanteled and removed from the park. First Judicial Chancellor John Rambo denied the request for an injunction.

Cowan filed suit on May 12 seeking to have the new stage removed because he said it violates the city’s ordinances against disturbing the peace, its anti-noise ordinance and parking requirements.