AUGUSTA — A restaurant is seeking permission to exceed the city’s noise limits during a planned summer series of hourlong outdoor concerts.

However, last summer noise from the concerts at The Red Barn restaurant weren’t popular with at least two of its Riverside Drive neighbors, who complained to the city that the business was violating the city’s noise rules.

A code enforcement officer, after getting property-line decibel meter readings at some of the concerts, agreed, and he ordered the concerts to stop.

Now The Red Barn’s owner is seeking permission from the Planning Board, under noise rules adopted last year aimed at addressing concerns about noise from speakers on car dealership lots, to exceed the city’s decibel limits for the free concerts.

The noise rules adopted by city councilors last year limit the sound coming from outdoor speakers at businesses to a maximum of 60 decibels at their property lines. At the time, city officials said that is about as loud as a normal face-to-face conversation.

Robert Overton, a city code enforcement officer, took sound level measurements north and south of The Red Barn at four concerts last summer. The music exceeded the 60-decibel limit at both property lines on all four occasions while music was playing, ranging from a low of 62 decibels to a high of 80 decibels, according to a memo from Matthew Nazar, director of development services, and Susan Redmond, assistant planner, to the Planning Board.

The city’s noise rules, however, allow the 60 decibel limit to be exceeded with Planning Board approval.

Alicia Barnes, business manager of The Red Barn, said the concerts have taken place the last three years, on Tuesday evenings, and said the shows on a stage beside an outdoor seating area have been popular with customers, especially families.

She said the restaurant wants to continue the series of Tuesday concerts this summer, too, from 5 to 6 p.m.

“The noise ordinance that was enacted to limit the ‘play by play’ at local car dealerships has impacted other businesses who wish to periodically offer free outdoor entertainment to the community,” Barnes wrote to the board as part of The Red Barn’s conditional-use permit application. “We value the quality of life our neighbors have on abutting property, and would like to find a way to continue offering free music to the local community while maintaining their quality of life.”

She said the business does not want musicians who “greatly exceed” 60 decibels and is willing to hire acts that do not use percussion instruments and multiple guitars.

The Planning Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on The Red Barn’s request to exceed the noise limit at its meeting Tuesday, beginning at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at Augusta City Center.

The board also is scheduled to hold a workshop session to discuss allowing restaurants without drive-throughs in the Resource Development zoning district, and a public hearing on a proposal to differentiate electronic gas station price signs from electronic message centers and to allow gas stations to have such price signs in zoning districts where electronic message centers are not allowed.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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