Selectmen Still Shaping The Beat Of Harwich Port Music

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Harwich Port

Similar to the long-running and successful Port Summer Nights in Harwich Port (pictured), Mondays on Main will feature bands, musicians and other entertainers.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH PORT — Setting the boundaries for music here has been a lot more challenging than town officials initially thought.

Selectmen on Monday night continued for the second time a public hearing on adopting the town's noise bylaw as a standard for entertainment and establishing uniform hours for playing music. Although they agreed that outside music should have a 10 p.m. limit, they were not prepared to go into further detail pending further discussions.

The initiative seeks to keep the business community and residents who live in the mixed-use district happy. Town Administrator Christopher Clark conducted one disciplinary hearing in September for noise and music performance being played after hours outside at Perks in the village center. Clark has also cited a couple of complaints registered in his office from outside music at Embers Coal Fired Pizza and Wings over the summer.

In mid-November the board conducted the initial public hearing, putting forward noise bylaw provisions as a standard for measuring an entertainment noise violation standard. That bylaw states it is unlawful for amplified music to be plainly audible at a distance of 150 feet from an establishment. The bylaw is also time sensitive, requiring compliance from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

While licenses issued to establishments address the containment of music inside, the board has not developed provisions for outside entertainment, which has become popular along the Route 28 corridor.

In the initial hearing residents who live in and around Harwich Port raised issues about outside entertainment carrying into surrounding neighborhoods, sometimes late at night. Woodland Road resident Bob Nickerson said he can hear music from Embers bouncing off walls his home like “I'm sitting in the restaurant.” There were other complaints about radio music wafting through the neighborhood.

There were a lot of suggestions from selectmen on how to address the issues in the first session, such as setting uniform times for entertainment to be played, limiting music to fewer nights per week per establishment and invoking the 150-foot limit for audible outside entertainment.

The board agreed additional discussion should be held between Clark, Police Chief David Guillimette, the chamber of commerce and the business community. Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill also cited the need to examine the application of liquor license language and entertainment provisions.

In Monday night's session, it was quite clear selectmen did not want to limit days entertainment could be played, citing the shortness of the peak summer season and the right of businesses to maximize profits over that period.

Clark said he met with Jeremy Gingras, chamber executive director, Chief Guillimette and members of the business community. He cited support for outside music being allowed to go to 10 p.m. every day as well as discussion about a “reasonable sound level” being acceptable 150 feet from the premises.

Clark also said the police department has seen a tremendous amount of voluntary compliance from businesses. “That should not be lost,” Clark said. He also said it makes good sense to have a regulation consistent with the bylaw.

But he also pointed out there needs to be consistency with language in liquor licenses. He cited a provision in the liquor license regulations stating that “No entertainment at the licensed premises may be conducted in a manner such that noise from the entertainment is creating nuisance and can be heard outside the boundaries of the premises.”

There was discussion about bringing liquor license and entertainment provisions into compliance and looking at extending the provisions town-wide, especially regarding uniformity of hours and the 150-foot noise limit.

Gingras raised the issue of impact on the town's major wedding facilities, Wychmere Beach Club and Wequassett Resort and Golf Club. He pointed out wedding contracts have been made well in advance and changes might impact those agreement. There was discussion about providing provisions that would allow entertainment to be heard up to 150 feet from the property boundaries.

But Clark made it clear the public hearing only encompassed the Route 28 corridor and not the entire town. He also pointed out the public hearing did not include changes to liquor license regulations. Additional public hearings would have to scheduled for expanded overview of those regulations, he said, adding that with license renewals coming up Jan. 1, any such changes in other areas would likely have to be placed on hold until the 2018 licenses are issued.

The board batted around a number of ideas relating to when outside entertainment should end each night. They were in agreement 10 p.m. was the proper time, but there was additional discussion about inside entertainment and whether it should be allowed to continue until the end of serving hours.

Cliff Connell, one of the owners of The Claddagh, said he agreed with the 10 p.m. outside curfew for music, but added that shutting inside music down before midnight, when his serving license expires, would have a negative impact on his business.

Nickerson praised the board for its direction on the 10 p.m. outside entertainment curfew, saying that he wants entertainment in the village, but within reasonable hours. He also praised selectmen for considering the 150-foot provision for outside entertainment.

Selectmen wrestled a bit with whether that provision should be from the source of the music, the amplification or the boundary line. Selectman Peter Hughes recommended it should be “150 feet from the source of amplification or the boundary, whichever is greater.”

But selectmen were not ready to finalize language at this point, agreeing instead to continue the hearing to Dec. 12.