EDM artist Diplo did more than move bodies on the Drillfield Tuesday night — he rattled windows for miles around, and Blacksburg citizens were not amused.
“I have been mayor for 10 years and councilman 20 years, and have lived here for 30 years, and have never seen such the number of complaints, the intensity of the complaints,” said Mayor Ron Rordam, whose windows were rattling as he ate supper last night.
The farthest complaint Rordam received came from five miles away, and he was informed that the police were getting, “Hundreds of calls” and had to bring in extra staff to handle the volume.
While citizens called their elected officials and police to complain about the noise, council members turned to social media to vent their frustrations.
“As a town elected official and as a downtown resident I am pretty offended by Virginia Tech's abuse of its state agency designation and its relation to the Town of Blacksburg in having a very very loud bass heavy ‘music’ band party that is disturbing to the peace for folks that have young school age children or otherwise,” Councilmember John Bush posted to Facebook. “It appears that our communication with VT officials leaves much to be desired.”
Bush, who had to crank his volume up just to hear the baseball game on his TV, stated that he received, “Dozens and dozens” of messages from his constituents. He worried for the K-12 students who were trying to do their homework while their windows rattled.
However, despite the volume of complaints, the town council was incapable of enforcing its noise policies.
“What a lot of people don't really understand — the town citizens, that is — is that the Town of Blacksburg has no regulatory authority over a state agency or state property, which Virginia Tech is,” Bush said.
Numerous complaints tonight. We have no power. https://t.co/sH09UcfIux—Ron Rordam (@RonRordam) Oct. 19, 2016
Excessive noise on campus is determined by Virginia Tech’s policies and procedures, prohibiting amplification in or around residence halls on weekdays — though officials can grant special exceptions, as was the case Tuesday night.
“Tonight’s concert was an extraordinary circumstance and after careful consideration we did issue an exception to the policy and extend the hours until 9 p.m. this evening,” wrote Senior Associate Vice President for University Relations Tracy Vosburgh in an email to the Collegiate Times. “Not all will agree with this decision but we do work to balance unique opportunities with the intent of the policy.”
Students had to present their Hokie passports to enter the concert area, as only Virginia Tech students were allowed to attend the event.
The Virginia Tech Event Planning Office also took to social media to address the town's quarrel: "Last night's event was sponsored by a registered student organization, and was vetted and approved through all relevant university offices on Virginia Tech's campus ... We would like to stress that this event was within both Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg's approved amplification hours."
The concert stage was set up on the west side of the Drillfield and faced the town. Audiologists assured town officials that reversing the direction of the speakers might have helped reduce treble and other sounds, but the bass — the crux of the issue — would have sounded essentially the same.
However, Bush wasn’t convinced. “I don't see how it could hurt,” he said.
Bush also stated the noise issue would, “Absolutely” be discussed at the next Town Gown meeting, where university and town officials regularly meet to discuss topics that impact both communities. The meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27, and is open to the public.
“The university does what it wants to do, and the town ... (suffers) the consequences,” Bush said. “It's not an anti-Virginia Tech thing by any means at all, it's just, hey, this is really bad. What's going on here, what can you do about it?”
The noise from football games, Bush said, is accepted by the town. Even Thursday night games, such as the upcoming Miami game, because the university coordinates with local law enforcement and citizens know the game schedule ahead of time.
Rordam especially wished the police had been given further notice about the concert.
“All of us, we live in a college town, we love living in a college town, we know with that … there are lots of things that you accept and it's fine and it's the way it should be, because it makes things lively,” Rordam said. “In my personal opinion, this was over the top.”