Selectmen approve Westport winery entertainment license

Ask operators to continue ‘good faith’ efforts to keep sound down for neighbors

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 11/7/19

WESTPORT — After a few weeks to think things over, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Monday, Oct. 28, to renew the entertainment license the enables Westport River Vineyards and Winery to …

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Selectmen approve Westport winery entertainment license

Ask operators to continue ‘good faith’ efforts to keep sound down for neighbors

Posted

WESTPORT — After a few weeks to think things over, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Monday, Oct. 28, to renew the entertainment license the enables Westport River Vineyards and Winery to stage its Friday evening summer concerts.

Selectmen did not attach new conditions or restrictions to the license, as requested by neighbor Edward Howe.

Board member Brian Valcourt, who made the motion to approve, said that extensive sound testing and other measures taken seem to indicate that the winery is “staying within the statute limitations. His family has always worked in good faith with the town. He has a history of trying to mitigate this.”

Board chairwoman Shana Shufelt did not call for added restrictions but called on winery owner Rob Russell “to continue to take measures to control the sound.”

Mr. Russell had provided selectmen with a long list of measures that he said the winery has taken to control the volume of sound that reaches the Howe property, the winery’s closest neighbor at around 200 yards.

On Monday, he said that, with the Howes’ permission, a sound meter had been attached to a fence post on the Howe property and that over a quarter million readings at one-second intervals have been taken — before, during and immediately after concerts.

“It looks like we are within the limit anyway,” Mr. Russell said, but it’s sort of beside the point” because if he has a town permit, state statute declares the winery exempt. “I think we have done a pretty good job of limiting ourselves.”

Asked by Ms. Shufelt if he intends to continue the self-imposed limits, Mr. Russell said yes, adding that selectmen can always haul them in and impose limits if they feel it necessary.

Mr. Howe acknowledged that Mr. Russell has made efforts to control the sound and called the issue an unintended consequence of a good idea.

While he does not “object to the idea that agriculture and farms should be supported in as many ways as possible … The fact is that it is extremely intrusive to our family every single Friday night for the entire summer … I’ve asked the board to somehow formally request or attach to an entertainment license a requirement that a good faith and ongoing effort be made to keep it below the level that is intrusive to neighbors.

No “really serious” sound control infrastructure has been added, he said. “Speakers have been arranged — I call up every Friday when it’s too loud and Rob says, ‘Okay, I’ll turn it down.’ But that’s putting a big burden on me to always be the monitor.”

Steps Mr. Russell said have been taken include:

• We don’t allow more than 300 cars and employ a police detail.

• Our music is finished a full hour before quiet time — events are over by 8 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

• We used to have bands play, now entertainment is by no more than two musicians at one time — and no drummers.

• There are only about 15 music events per year of two hours each.

• The musical stage and speakers have been redirected to try to lessen the impact.

• We’ve bought our own directional speakers and hired our own sound professional — we are now able to turn the sound down ourselves … “We used to have a problem with the musicians wanting to turn it up all the time.”

Mr. Russell said, “we get complaints on a weekly basis from people who wish it was louder.”

• We planted a hedgerow along the south border that is now ever 15 feet tall.

• We don’t do weddings.

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