Judge denies WOMH's attempt to declare Houston's noise ordinance unconstitutional

HOUSTON – On Wednesday, a judge denied a request to declare the city's noise ordinance unconstitutional.

In April 2018, residents dropped their lawsuit against White Oak Music Hall when the venue's owner agreed to limit the number of shows each year and install sound meters to monitor the noise level.

In recent months, Houston police have issued about half a dozen sound violation tickets to employees at White Oak Music Hall. Each violation can result in fines of up to $15,000. Together, they could provide grounds for attempting to remove the venue's license.

The violations haven't gone to court yet.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the White Oak Music Hall employees tried to have the tickets thrown out, claiming the noise ordinance was unconstitutional.

What lawyers said

The lawyers said the part of the ordinance that says it's not only about what residents can hear, but also what they feel, is "too vague."

"There’s this particular part that says that if any citizen becomes aware of vibration, that’s evidence that a violation has happened," attorney Brad Loper said. "That's too vague. It is arbitrarily enforced and we think it should be stricken from this part of the law."

What residents are saying

Residents in the area said the noise is oftentimes overwhelming, especially late at night.

"You try to lay down in bed and you just hear that. You can't sleep. I just have to turn up the TV. It drowns out your conversation. I’m a musician. I don’t mind music. I’m a songwriter. I try to work at my house and half the time, I can’t even hear myself play," Jimmy Thibodeaux said.

What's next

The hearings for the employees who have been cited with noise violations could provide another chance for the venue's attorneys to attack the city's noise ordinance on constitutional grounds.