The right to remain silent

Let’s use the Holland Project vs. sleepless neighbor George Moore, as detailed in last week’s news story, “Neighborly dispute,” to illustrate a point. Are you familiar with this issue? Basically, some young people got together to build a venue, which, if successful, would finally give the youth of Reno and Sparks something constructive to do with their time and a place to exercise their rights to assembly and self-expression.

The Holland Project, which got huge buy-in from the city of Reno and other entities, has been a rousing success by many measures. But “rousing” doesn’t imply universal. And angry neighbor George Moore, who rented the house next door last September, also has rights—privacy, peace and redress of grievances among them.

Then there’s the city of Reno. It’s been plain throughout this tempest that the city of Reno’s heart is in the right place. However, after incompletely preparing the Holland Project’s founders for doing their stated business in the city of Reno (for example, ensuring the group had proper licensing before performances began), city officials want to make everyone happy without accepting responsibility for their own complicity in the problem. The city needs to do its part to satisfy all the parties involved.

This raises many questions about the way the Holland Project and neighbor Moore came to this juncture: Why can’t the city say for the record what zoning any two particular pieces of real estate has? Why did the city permit a live music venue to open but did not inform owners/operators about the necessary documentation for business? If the city has legal decibel levels in ordinances, why aren’t merchants clearly informed what “disturbing the peace” might mean in differently zoned areas?

These questions suggest that the city operates with rules that are subject to change. In other words, when something like the Holland Project becomes controversial, elected officials can modify the rules in the middle of the game. Let’s recall that the Holland Project occupies a building next to the train tracks, where noise levels have been high almost since the day the city was founded.

This is not the way the city of Reno should do business. It’s not fair to the businesses that operate within the city limits, nor is it fair to residents who move into buildings in or near activities that by their nature will make a lot of noise. This is another example of what has happened with some residents of the former Comstock Hotel-Casino, The Residences at Riverwalk, and their battles with the Green Room and the Five Star, which also offer live music.

Reno is a loud city. There are few residential areas of town that are not impacted by noise pollution generated by events like Street Vibrations. If city officials want to walk around with a decibel meter in order to make the Holland Project satisfy some capricious, after-the-fact stipulations, they should be prepared to make all businesses and events conform to a standard that will allow all citizens equal protection under the law and an equal opportunity to sleep at night.