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Last weekend, I went to see a live musical performance at an outdoor venue in West Sedona. The two-band show ran from 6 to 10 p.m. I went a little after 8:15 p.m. to catch the second act.

At 9:15 p.m., the five-member band stopped the full show and two guitarists played an acoustic song in the audience. Then the band started packing up its gear.

Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamAs a member of the audience, I felt cheated. I know from past experience that the band I went to see has more than enough original music to fill a two-hour set several times over.

Speaking later with the venue’s manager, the band had several visits from the police regarding the noise and had turned down its amplifiers. Although reportedly in compliance with the sound ordinance, complaints continued, so the band opted to close up early rather than deal with any more appearances by police.

The manager said she expected the venue lost roughly $1,000 in food and beverage sales because the show ended 45 minutes early, and the roughly 60 patrons dwindled to fewer than 10. The city — and thus we residents — also lost out on sales tax revenue from attendees. In spite of plans to work out some compromise between city staff, police, residents and venues, delays have resulted in no major changes to policy, enforcement or city code and it’s back to business — or lack thereof — as usual. Venues, despite being in compliance, have shut down their musical acts night after night.

Most of the police officers I’ve met have a sense of duty to serve their community positively — just like U.S. Forest Service workers, nonprofit volunteers, elected officials, teachers and even journalists. Being the “bad guy” at a noisy venue is not why a police officer gets into law enforcement and wears the badge.

Throughout Sedona, General Commercial zones are immediately adjacent to Single-Family Residential or Planned Residential Development zones. The city has an obligation to make changes to its ordinances or law enforcement priorities, or to offer grants or small-business loans that erect a buffer to ensure that both businesses and residents can live side-by-side under zoning ordinances that city leaders once thought would be OK.

The city recently used “eminent domain” to begin acquiring vacant land off of Brewer Road; surely, using the same process to acquire one-foot stretches along property lines and build soundproof walls would be equally easy. Unlike the Brewer Road property, these would immediately show a return in the investment with increased sales tax revenue.

Some Cottonwood venues open late are considering a shuttle service that would bring Sedona residents and tourists — and their money — south to their stages, meaning an end to late-night drives.

Sedona can’t afford to wait years for a solution. Other towns and communities in the Verde Valley are more than eager to snap up excess revenue if city staff and City Council refuse to act.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor












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  • smb

    Bring back the Cultural Park.

  • Benny Katz

    Maybe people would stop complaining about the "noise" if the business owners sued the complainers for restriction of trade and each musician sued the complainers for harassment and interfering with their ability to make a living each time a complaint was called into the police?

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