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Residents try to quiet amphitheater

Two residents who live near the Ford Amphitheatre are asking a judge today to stop allowing concerts until noise issues are resolved at the venue.

By LETITIA STEIN
Published May 26, 2005


TAMPA - At the Ford Amphitheatre, the battle over the noise rocks on.

Neighbors return to court today to try to turn down the volume at the outdoor venue owned by Clear Channel Entertainment. Residents want to throw concerts off the amphitheater stage until the noise can be controlled.

"They are violating on almost every concert they hold," said Rick Tschantz, general counsel for the Environmental Protection Commission, noting that preliminary reports suggest that noise levels considered acceptable by the county were broken at last Saturday's Allman Brothers concert.

Since the amphitheater opened last summer, residents living near the concert shell at the Florida State Fairgrounds have complained about loud music blasting the calm in their homes. The EPC sued last year to block concerts until noise limits could be met, after receiving more than 160 complaints from residents living nearby. Clear Channel has battled in court ever since.

"We dispute these allegations, and neither we nor the court has found them to be credible," said Paul Griscti, a spokesman for Clear Channel and the Ford Amphitheatre.

He said he didn't think today's hearing would affect the Santana concert scheduled for Monday at the amphitheater.

In February, Judge Gregory P. Holder agreed with Clear Channel that portions of the county's noise ordinance are "unconstitutionally vague," but he did not rule on blocking concerts. Holder since has recused himself from the case. The next hearing is scheduled for late August before Judge Charlene Honeywell.

The latest complaint stems from a recent show featuring 3 Doors Down.

On April 30, residents say they endured 10 hours of headaches from multiple rock bands, blaring music from 1 p.m. until nearly 11 p.m. at a concert organized by Clear Channel and WXTB-97.9 FM (98 Rock), according to a complaint filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

"I walked out the front door and the first thing that I heard was F-this. This is a family neighborhood," said Don Geisler, 47, who lives about a half mile from the outdoor venue.

He doesn't mind performers who keep the volume down. But concerts routinely prevent him from getting a good night's sleep before rising for work at 5:30 a.m. "It's not fair," Geisler said.

Edward S. Schroering Jr., one of the two named plaintiffs, declined to comment. The other, Brenda J. Gaston, could not be reached for comment.

Tschantz, the EPC attorney, said that this lawsuit aims to bring relief to residents as the summer concert season kicks off. This case involves only Clear Channel Entertainment, while the first lawsuit also dragged the Florida State Fairgrounds into the fray. But Clear Channel is requesting that the court consolidate the two lawsuits into one.

The EPC considers the move a delaying tactic.

"The longer they can go and have concerts without any interference from the courts is better news for them," Tschantz said.

Letitia Stein can be reached at 661-2443 or lstein@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 26, 2005, 01:16:07]


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