RPB Council OKs Commons Park Amphitheater Design

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council approved the design for an amphitheater at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park last week, with direction to pay special attention to sound control outside the park.

At the April 21 meeting, residents on nearby Sandpiper Avenue presented a petition to reduce the allowed noise level and number of live events.

REG Architects was contracted in January to come up with a design for the planned amphitheater.

Prior to discussion of the designs, Sandpiper Avenue residents Libby and Earl Brannan presented a petition with 119 signatures from people living around the park asking to reduce the level and tone of the sound coming from the park.

Brannan, who had a doctor’s letter verifying that he had a disability that rendered him unable to tolerate loud noise, said he has to stay in a hotel when the park hosts concerts.

“We believe that the loud noise at a multitude of events held by the village are an invasion of our property rights to a peaceful community,” Libby Brannan said. “Our request is to reduce the noise and the number of loud events.”

Earl Brannan said he bought his home 20 years ago and had been happy there, until the events started at the park.

“I thought the community had some class, but in the past few years, the class has gone down badly,” he said. “There are people, not only myself, who are sick of the noise. The simple thing would be to turn the noise down.”

Councilman David Swift empathized with those who do not like the loud music, especially on band nights and during the four large events held there.

“I didn’t realize the scope of it,” Swift said. “On the Fourth of July, we have 10,000 people show up. The problem with WestFest is it’s all country rock. To me, it’s loud bass that we’re having trouble controlling. In contrast, I have people on the same block right behind who really love the events and get their chairs and sit out back and enjoy it.”

Swift said the question with the amphitheater was whether the village would be able to control the sound better by using a permanent structure. “I think we need to understand the level of sound and what we’re talking about,” Swift said, adding that he would be willing to eliminate the Friday night bands, at least until they get the new amphitheater in place.

“If we’re going to spend a lot of money on this amphitheater, we’d better get that part right,” Mayor Fred Pinto said. “One of the ways to address this is turning the volume down. I’m serious about that; even the big events.”

Village Manager Ray Liggins said the amphitheater discussion would include sound control. “In the meantime, we can turn it down,” he said.

The council authorized contracting REG Architects to design the amphitheater at a cost of no more than $114,570 after more discussion about sound control. Council members chose the second of two floor plans, which included a more solid structural design, as opposed to a design with a tensile overhang.

Village Engineer Chris Marsh noted that the village has invested more than $22 million in the park, which opened in 2013. The council approved adding the amphitheater in 2014. For the amphitheater project, the village has accumulated $381,500 in grant money.

REG President Rick Gonzalez said the location has already been approved at the southwest corner of the park. The goal is to take advantage of an existing restroom building and another structure, with a plan to convert that to a green room and storage facility, and add a breezeway to connect to the new stage. It would be about 1,700 square feet with landscaping and a floor area directly in front.

The first design would be similar to another that REG created for the City of Boynton Beach, with a tensile fabric roof rated to withstand winds of 150 mph and a design to complement other structures in the park. The second design was more like the one REG created in Wellington, with a heavy timber canopy and metal roof.

The probable cost would be about $650,000 for the first design and $800,000 for the second design.

“I know you were talking about acoustics, and that is a big deal in any community,” Gonzalez said, adding that his acoustic consultant would provide input.

At the stage, the sound level is about 100 to 110 decibels, and the sound drops off about 10 db for every 100 feet away from the stage, he said. The level where a normal conversation can be carried on is about 60 to 65 decibels.

The sound will be controlled by determining objectionable levels and making it better than at the current temporary facilities by controlling the sound systems, especially the bass, so that it is directed and focused in the audience area through the orientation of speakers, creating and enforcing operational parameters, as well as landscaping and berming.

“It’s not going to solve it, but it will alleviate some of the current conditions,” Gonzalez said.

Sound can be better controlled by the village providing its own sound equipment, he added. However, that can be cost-prohibitive. He suggested a public/private partnership where a vendor provides the equipment and the village sets the sound parameters, with recommendations from the sound consultant.

Gonzalez noted that the amphitheater his firm designed in Wellington is in a much smaller space than the Commons Park site.

“You can’t put 10,000 people there,” he said. “You have the room to do those four events every year.”

Gonzalez and Marsh both recommended the design with the solid roof, as opposed to the one with the tensile fabric, from an aesthetic standpoint.

Gonzalez said they could have a final plan ready for the council by early summer, with input from the community.

Marsh said grant restraints require the village to move quickly.

“We will come back to you in June,” he said. “I think they could have a much better grasp on the sound issues at that point, and we can have a discussion at that meeting as to the sound options.”

Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara stressed the importance of keeping the public involved.

“Hopefully they will come along, and we wind up in the same place when it’s time to make a final decision,” he said.

Hmara made a motion to approve staff’s recommendation, which carried 5-0.