Westport Selectmen — Vineyard music: Turn it down, neighbor asks

License on hold as selectmen seek more information

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 9/26/19

Before they act on the annual entertainment license for Westport River Vineyards and Winery, selectmen want to learn more about efforts to control sound levels at the winery’s evening …

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Westport Selectmen — Vineyard music: Turn it down, neighbor asks

License on hold as selectmen seek more information

Posted

Before they act on the annual entertainment license for Westport River Vineyards and Winery, selectmen want to learn more about efforts to control sound levels at the winery’s evening concerts.

The winery was among eight establishments, among them car dealers and restaurants, whose licenses were put on hold to give the Board of Selectmen time to sort out various issues.

Winery neighbor Edward Howe asked the board to attach further conditions to the entertainment license that allows the concerts.

Mr. Howe said he is the closest neighbor — about 200 yards — to the Friday evening concert site.

“We’ve had a continuing issue with excessive noise … We’ve tried a bunch of strategies to deal with it,” but over four or five years, “nothing has really changed.” The noise on Friday evenings and many Saturdays from June to September “is so loud that our family feels we are at the concert” and must close the windows.

He said that a sound engineer he hired found that the noise exceeds state DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) sound limits, “but there is no oversight.”

When it’s especially loud he said, “I have to call Rob (owner Rob Russell)” and Mr. Russell says, “‘I’m sorry, I’ll go turn it down.’ It’s week after week after week.”

He asked selectmen to “ask the vineyard to invest in some kind of infrastructure that would keep the sound on their property.”

Mr. Russell said that those DEP sound regulations allow exemptions for licensed facilities like the vineyard.

And he listed steps the winery has already taken to control the size of the event and sound produced — “We’ve been a good neighbor.” These 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.

Selectmen assigned the town administrator to look into existing conditions and restrictions and to see whether more are needed.

Back taxes an issue

Another business whose license was “held” for further discussion was S&K Auto Sales.

The problem has to do with non-payment of town taxes by the landlord, the owners were told.

The business owners told selectmen that they pay their town taxes and don’t want to lose their business the landlord is not up to date.

Selectmen proposed seeing whether the tenants’ rent payments can be directed to payment of those back taxes as happened once before.

Veterans’ parking spots

Selectmen approved a request that one parking space be set aside at both Town Hall and the Town Hall Annex for use by veterans only. Those using the spot (it would be painted with a veterans blue star indicator) would need a veterans license plate or a placard that would be made by the town’s veterans office — violators would risk a $100 fine.

One person suggested limiting the space to disabled veterans, and asked why other veterans need a special space.

Better social services pay

The director of the Council on Aging proposed a two-tier pay system for the town’s Social Day Care program aides. The first would provide entry level pay; the second, for those with more experience, would provide a raise of a dollar or two per hour.

She said the suggestion was prompted by the fact that the state minimum wage will rise in January to $12.75 an hour. When that happens, the town’s Social Day Care aides will only make two cents more than minimum wage.

Selectman Brian Valcourt moved approval, saying, “They are certainly not paid what they are worth.”

Selectmen were supportive but it was decided to hold off to give the town administrator time to look into how many other town employees might be impacted by the hike in minimum wage.

Money for the raises is available in the Council on Aging budget, selectmen were told.

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