ORLEANS – Local officials hope a new outdoor entertainment license application will help the town steer clear of the complaints and confusion that frustrated some businesses and residents last year.
The board's decision last spring to allow live outdoor music at the Barley Neck Inn led to a dispute between the Beach Road restaurant and some abutters who complained about noise and parking problems at the establishment. Part of the problem stems from the town's existing noise bylaw, which exempts businesses that have a liquor license.
An advisory group made up of Town Administrator John Kelly, members from the Orleans Restaurant Association and representatives from the town's cultural council, cultural district, planning department and police department has been meeting in recent months to craft a new outdoor entertainment license application designed to appease both residents and local businesses. At the same time, the town is trying to move away from the noise bylaw, which Kelly said is ineffective.
"This is our best effort to try and make this work for this summer," he told the board March 23.
The inn's license last year allowed for outdoor music four nights a week from Wednesday to Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. The revised license, which would be valid from April 1 through Nov. 30, would allow licensed businesses to host live music outdoors four days a week for four hours each day between 11:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.
"That way they choose when they want to do it, and they're not locked into a fixed schedule," Kelly told the select board.
Another feature of the revised license is a requirement that businesses submit weekly schedules to both Kelly's office and the police department showing what days and times they plan to host entertainment outdoors. The license also asks applicants to identify the specific type of entertainment being hosted (dance, music or theater) and gives applicants space to more fully explain their plans.
During the meeting's public comment period, Phil Ruggeri, who has owned the Barley Neck Inn with his wife since 2015, spoke in support of the revised terms of the license.
"You can count on the Barley Neck to do everything in our power to make this work," he said.
The select board plans to revisit the licenses in November after the close of the summer season, at which time terms for the license could be further modified. But Kevin Galligan said the draft presented to the board last week represents a positive step forward.
"I think we're demonstrating our desire to be flexible," he said.
Andrea Reed of the select board asked if the noise bylaw should be referenced on the application.
"We really tried to stay away from the noise bylaw, because that's a whole other can of worms," Kelly said.
While the goal of the new license and application is to create a sense of uniformity for all license holders, Select Board Chair Mefford Runyon said he favored allowing the board the ability to condition applications as it sees fit. Kelly said this is allowed, as the select board is the town's licensing authority.
But some business owners spoke out against conditioning the applications. Mac Gallant, who co-owns Hog Island Brewery, said the advisory group worked hard to create a license with criteria that all businesses can be held accountable to. Conditioning applications disrupts that uniformity, he said.
"That kind of goes against what we were trying to do in good faith," he said.
But Runyon noted that no two applications will be alike, and as such, the board needs to have the ability to condition licenses as needed.
"I do think the board should reserve for itself conditions that it wants to impose," he said.
While conditions are designed to better protect abutters, Ruggeri said the board shouldn't put additional restrictions on businesses to appease what he said are a small number of aggrieved residents.
"We went through this whole process, and you're still going to get complaints from those same two people," he told the board. "Where is the line?"
Select Board member Mark Mathison agreed. He cautioned the board against going down the road of creating conditions for applications.
Some feedback about the licenses and applications should be expected this summer season, Reed said, but she noted there will be an opportunity to make changes in the offseason.
"We need a little time to grow this," she said.
The select board did not take action on the draft March 23, but was expected to do so at its next meeting on March 30.
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