City council approves noise variance; contest has to be indoors

NEW ULM — By a split 3-1 vote, the New Ulm City Council approved a noise variance for Dan Horner of PROformance Auto Start & Security on Sept. 8 at 1218 N. Front St., to allow amplified music during Midwest SPL and DB Drag Show. The condition is for the contest take place indoors.

The SPL and DB Drag Shows are competitions in which vehicle stereo systems are played to determine which can achieve the highest decibel sound.

Horner has held these competitions in New Ulm before and proved controversial with local residents who objected to the loud noise intentionally generated.

The council held a public hearing to receive any comments upon the proposed noise variance. Typically a variance requires every business or residence within 500 feet be notified, but the council chose to notify everyone within a 1,500-foot radius. Of the 200 people notified, the city received three letters, an email and a phone call all in opposition to the variance. Of the comments in opposition only one business was in the initial 500-foot range.

Horner attended the meeting and said he is doing his best to keep complaints to a minimum, which is why the event is taking place in a primarily industrial location. Horner did not believe the disturbance would be as great as people believe. He explained that the vehicles competing can reach over 160 dBs, but this sound is recorded at the windshield. The noise is lessened by distance. He gave assurances that only the vehicles competing would engage their speakers.

Councilor Les Schultz did not support the variance. He acknowledged the event brought people into the community, but said it is also an annoyance to the people living in New Ulm.

“This is the type of event that needs to be out in the country,” he said. “It does not belong in city limits.”

Horner argued that all of the SPL and DB Drag Shows he has attended this year took place within cities, including the Twin Cities and Mankato. No complaints were received at these events.

Councilor David Christian asked if the audio testing would take place indoors.

Horner said the audio competition will be inside his building to cut down the noise.

Christian was willing to allow the variance if the sound tests were conducted inside, with doors shut to further muffle the sound.

Councilor Charlie Schmitz said he was leaning toward granting the variance, but said every effort to keep the noise down needs to be taken.

Horner said he was willing to do what the council asked to ensure the sound was kept indoors.

Councilor Lisa Fischer made the motion to allow the variance for this one event on Sept. 8 at 1218 N. Front St. on the condition the audio tests take place inside behind closed doors. Christian seconded the motion, which passed with Schultz voting against.

With this variance approval the Midwest SPL and DB Drag Show will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8.

An hour after this event is scheduled to end, the Thunder in the Valley will be held in Harman Park in which multiple cannons will be fired, followed by a rock and roll concert and fireworks.

In other news

The preliminary plat of Itinger Addition on South Minnesota Street was approved. The plat is to accommodate twin homes and two single-family units. The council also approved a variance allowing the construction of the homes. A similar variance was granted to Al Poehler in 2017 for the construction of row and twin homes in Milford Heights.

The New Beginnings Church received its permit to locate in the building at 320 S. 20 St. This building was previously occupied by Dollar General. The permit carried the condition that the church provide one parking space for each six seats, based on the design capacity of the main seating area.

Dennis Bianchi received a permit to allow storage facilities on property at 1601-1619 S. State St. Christian supported the permit, but commented this parcel was a dump site for demolition materials. The remains of Union Hospital are buried on this location. Christian wanted Bianchi to be aware this could create unique building problems.

The council set a public hearing date on the recommendation for proposed amendments to the New Ulm City Charter. The public hearing was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

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