Acoustic Outdoor Music Allowed At Barley Neck Inn

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Zoning/land use , Orleans news , live music

The Orleans Select Board voted unanimously May 11 to issue a seasonal outdoor entertainment license for the Barley Neck Inn. Unamplified acoustic music will be allowed on the inn’s front for lawn up to four days a week for four hours each day. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – Outdoor music is returning to the Barley Neck Inn, but musicians will have to leave their amplifiers at home.

In a compromise with neighbors to the Beach Road restaurant, the select board unanimously voted May 11 to approve a seasonal outdoor entertainment license for non-amplified, acoustic music at the inn through November.

"We've known for a while that the season is coming, and we need to move expeditiously," said Michael Herman of the select board.

The board's vote, for now, brings to a close a lengthy back and forth between the inn, neighbors and town officials over noise coming from outdoor music played on the inn's front lawn in past summer seasons. Neighbors abutting the inn have complained about the negative impacts stemming from the amplified outdoor music.

The select board's revised outdoor entertainment license application for this season allows for music four days a week for four hours each day between 11:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. It also requires licensed establishments to file weekly entertainment schedules with both town hall and the Orleans Police Department.

But the inn's location in a rural business district has raised the question of how to balance the inn's right to host outdoor entertainment with neighbors' right to enjoy their properties in peace.

The select board last fall asked the town's building commissioner, Thomas Evers, to weigh in on whether the inn first needed a special permit from the zoning board of appeals before an outdoor entertainment license can be applied for. While Evers found that outdoor amplified music constituted "an intensification" of the inn's pre-existing nonconforming use, the ZBA felt otherwise, and voted 4-1 May 4 to overturn Evers' ruling. The ZBA vote put the matter back before the select board last week to consider the seasonal license.

The inn's application detailed plans to host amplified music with vocals, minus bass drum and bass guitar, four days a week for three hours each day. A drawing included with the application showed an outdoor speaker set up with sound directed toward Barley Neck Road and away from Beach Road residents. The inn also sought permission to play amplified recorded music playlists.

John Kanaga, the attorney representing the inn, said an acoustic engineer will also be hired to do an analysis as to how noise from outdoor music this season compares to that from past years.

"I think they'll make the finding that this is a much less amplified sound that will be coming from the Barley Neck Inn," he said.

But Victoria Dalmas, the attorney representing the inn's abutters, said the inn does not have the data to prove that what it's proposing this season will reduce the noise impacts for abutters. She also said the inn's plan doesn't take into account other noises that also come with running a restaurant, such as that from traffic and lunch and dinner service.

"Are we heading into another season of real problematic noise?" she asked.

The area of the inn is much different than it was decades earlier when live amplified music was more accepted, Dalmas argued.

"[The neighbors] have made every effort at the local level to express that what's going on here is not appropriate," she said.

To demonstrate the noise levels, Steve Schenfeld, who abuts the inn on Beach Road, played a recording he took of music played outside the inn on his phone from a neighbor's dining room last summer. Katy Day, a direct abutter to the inn, said she at first put up with the outdoor music, believing it only to be temporary. But it soon became too much, she said.

"There is a true suffering that comes from this," she said. "None of the abutters are standing up about this because we're trying to create a problem, or because we hate music or we dislike the Barely Neck."

Day said she recently had what she called a "pleasant" conversation with the inn's co-owner, Phil Ruggeiri, but said she left feeling that common ground had not been reached. She proposed allowing outdoor amplified music two nights a week for a maximum of eight weeks between June 15 and Sept. 15.

"I think it's common sense," she said. "We get some relief, they get to have some amplified music and we can see how the season goes."

Laura Scheel, another immediate abutter on Beach Road, said as an opponent to the amplified outdoor music, she has been harassed online by people calling her "entitled" and "unneighborly." She also criticized the ZBA's recent decision and accused management at the inn of not being responsive to neighbors' concerns. But Kanaga said the inn is open to a compromise with the town and the neighbors.

"If there's restrictions the board wants to put on us, that's up to you," he said. "We are not deaf to Katy Day and Laura Scheel."

Other residents including Larry Squire, who also lives near the inn, spoke in defense of the inn's plans. Squire said that outdoor music fits in with the town's economic development plan, part of which calls for more "experiential" offerings in and around the downtown area. He added that in his experience, inn management has been "very responsive" to residents' complaints and concerns.

"We're patrons, we're extended neighbors and as a taxpayer, I think this is good for the town," he said.
Scheel took issue with support voiced for the inn by residents she said aren't immediate abutters to the property.

"Anyone who doesn't live next door, who is not a direct abutter, has no idea what this is like to live here and to have to experience this," she said.

Select board members were open to approving a license with conditions, but had concerns about taking action without the ZBA's decision first being filed. Neighbors have a 20-day window to appeal the ZBA decision upon it being filed with the town clerk.

Town Administrator John Kelly said Town Counsel Michael Ford has determined that the status of the ZBA decision does not impact the select board's ability to issue the license.

"The abutters have the right to appeal, but that's a separate issue," Kelly said. "That's not before this board."

But Kevin Galligan was frustrated by being asked to weigh in on the license without having yet read the ZBA decision. He said his board should have waited until that decision was filed.

"I'm not ready on this one," he said. "I don't mean to dismiss any of what people said, but I don't think we did you a service by bringing you right in, and I was not one who promised to do that."

Mark Mathison of the select board called for a compromise that would allow the inn to host two nights of amplified music for eight weeks and two nights of acoustic music for the full season.

"If the owners are willing to talk about that seriously and go down that road, I think it's a good first step to solving a problem here that's not going to go away," he said.

But the question of how to proceed without the ZBA decision in hand still remained. Kelly said the ZBA has been behind in filing its decisions, and the select board considered waiting a week on its vote until the decision is filed. But with the start of the summer season, the board also feared putting a vote off further.

Herman made a motion that the board approve a seasonal license for acoustic music without amplification, conditional on the filing of the ZBA decision and a written opinion from Ford that the select board is in good standing to award the license. Ruggieri agreed to the acoustic-only condition, but expressed the need for the board to move swiftly.

"We do have Memorial Day coming up, and we're already behind the eight ball trying to schedule bands," Ruggieri said. "Now if we're going to limit it to certain types of bands, I really need a chance to make this happen."

The approved license does not allow for amplified recorded music. Kelly said the inn can come back to apply for a separate license for that at a later date, but Ruggieri said after the meeting that he likely will not do so.

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