If it’s too loud, you’re too old
The perceived problems from Waterbury neighborhood residents of Des Moines in dealing with noise from concerts at the nearby Val Air Ballroom across the border in West Des Moines are more than they appear. Although the issue is presented as a struggle with noise from residents who signed a petition, class warfare issues are clearly at the root.
The Waterbury neighborhood is mostly a residential area made up of single family homes, some of which are the most expensive in the Des Moines metro. The median home price is more than $200,000 with many homes valued at three to four times that amount. Residents enjoy nearby amenities like Water Works Park, Waveland Golf Course and access to downtown Des Moines and Drake University. And although this neighborhood is north of the illustrious “South of Grand” area, it is still snobbishly close. A portion of Waterbury is also adjacent to 63rd Street — the border between Des Moines and West Des Moines — making it the furthest west a Des Moines resident can reside without becoming a suburbanite.
Meanwhile, the Val Air Ballroom has served as a music venue for 70 years at its Ashworth Road location in West Des Moines, just a stone’s throw away from the Des Moines city limits. What once served as the home for Wilson Rubber Co. has brought in musical acts such as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra and B.B. King. Even a tragic fire in 1961 couldn’t close the Val Air for long, as then owner and founder Tom Archer rebuilt the facility.
Times changed, and so did the music at the Val Air, with acts like Delbert McClinton, Buddy Guy and Insane Clown Posse (scheduled again in November of this year) playing in the ’90s. But hard times hit the ballroom, and a possible demolition was seriously discussed at one point. With new management in place and truckloads of money invested, the Val Air has resurged as a concert destination with a mix of music genres and a continued goal to provide music entertainment. Ongoing improvements to the ballroom and its grounds helped to attract quality bands. Acts like Dethklok, Mastodon, Lamb of God and Buckcherry may not be the preferred music for the current Waterbury residents, but that’s a matter of choice, as is the decision to buy or sell a home.
Some Waterbury residents claim that the pounding bass from the music is rattling their windows and keeping them awake at night, but we have not endured any of those problems at our office, which is located in the Waterbury area. We recommend that the complaining homeowners buy some tools and tighten their window frame screws, or ask the illegal immigrants who mow their lawns to do it for them. The fact is that the Val Air has been in the area longer than most residents, and we doubt the residents who have been in the neighborhood for more than 70 years can hear much of anything anyway.
The Des Moines Register reported that 202 complaints were filed against the Val Air in the past three years, but that noise violations were found only twice, and that 117 of the complaints were from a single irritated neighbor located in West Des Moines. Buy that person some ear plugs, and let the rest of us enjoy the music.
Are hip hop acts like Snoop Dogg, Twista or Yung LA — or the fans who follow them — offensive to Waterbury residents? Is there a long-standing beef with the Val Air and some Waterbury residents? Or do the 93 Waterbury residents who signed the petition just want some peace and quiet? Something smells fishy, and it’s not coming from Walnut Creek.
The West Des Moines city council made the appropriate response by telling Waterbury petitioners that they would do more analysis and testing. Given the situation, some noise testing may be appropriate, but we doubt that the Waterbury residents will like the end result, as these inspections have been done before.
So to those who will continue to complain, we offer an effective and immediate one-word solution: move. CV