Someone might have to turn down the bass.
Concerts, bike rallies and other large gatherings could face additional scrutiny from Horry County officials after two recent events generated numerous noise complaints. County officials on Tuesday formed a committee that will reexamine the county’s rules for special events, and the same group could possibly evaluate permit requests in the future.
“We’ve got to do something about them,” Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus said. “We’ve got to get it under control. … Public safety is pretty much helpless in being able to do anything about it once these things get started.”
Tuesday’s discussion followed an electronic dance music (EDM) concert at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton two weeks ago and a car event at the former Freestyle Music Park site last weekend. The concert organizers received a county permit but the car event was not approved by the county.
County officials said they received multiple complaints about noise at both events, and they noted that they are continuing to hear resident concerns about large gatherings.
“The noise issue is a continual problem, and it’s not just the last two weekends,” said Randy Webster, the assistant county administrator over public safety. “We’re seeing more and more complaints of noise.”
The county issues special event permits for a variety of gatherings: parades, festivals, bike rallies, marathons, block parties, poker runs and some commercial filming. If an outdoor event is expected to draw more than 500 people, a permit is required.
There’s a $250 nonrefundable application fee for a special event permit, and organizers must provide the county with a site plan that details traffic provisions, crowd control plans and a parking proposal, among other specifics. Applications are accepted up to a year in advance but no sooner than 45 days prior to the event.
County officials are considering increasing the minimum number of days to 90 to allow for additional vetting. Loftus and councilman Orton Bellamy have agreed to work with the county’s police department and emergency management staff on a committee that would review the ordinances and make recommendations for changes. That same group may wind up becoming a permanent committee that reviews all permit applications.
In 2019, the county issued 55 special event permits. Even with the COVID-19-related business slowdown, the county approved 37 special event permits this year.
“What do we do about noise that’s going to 11 o’clock that’s currently allowed in the noise ordinance?” Webster said. “Folks are getting upset about that. We need to make sure that that stops at 11. … We’re starting to get more and more requests for special events at the same locations over and over and over.”
The EDM concert, which was held during the last weekend in October, was billed as a socially distant event where guests could enjoy the music from their room balconies.
County officials said they didn’t expect the sound to travel as far as it did. During Tuesday’s meeting, they said they had learned from the event and it wouldn’t happen again.
“I thought about that thing,” councilman Al Allen said. “I said, ‘You needed to have somebody down there to perform an exorcism, it sounded like, on that crowd.'”
The hotel’s general manager could not be reached for comment.
The car event organizers had not obtained a permit, but the loud gathering at the former music park site generated complaints from the nearby Arrowhead community, county officials said.
“That was slated to be a smaller event,” Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill said. “And of course when you advertise anything on social media, you’re going to get people coming from all over the place. And that’s what happened.”
After the gathering shut down, Hill said engines revved and more noise followed as the vehicles left the property.
Allen suggested that when a special event permit application is received, county staff should notify the council member who represents the community that would be impacted.
“It all comes back on us,” he said.
County staff said they are trying to strike a balance between businesses’ efforts to survive in a difficult economy and residents' quality-of-life concerns. However, as the county continues to grow, they acknowledged that challenge will become more difficult.
“This is going to be escalating instead of decreasing,” councilman Danny Hardee said.