AUGUSTA — The Planning Board dismissed a busy local restaurant’s request to exceed the city’s 60-decibel noise limit during a weekly summer series of outdoor concerts.

But planners told representatives of The Red Barn restaurant Tuesday they can resubmit their request if they can show they’ve tried to address neighbors’ concerns by limiting noise from the hour-long concerts.

Last summer noise from the concerts at the restaurant on Riverside Drive drew complaints from two of its neighbors, Brian King and Ron Carrier, who complained to the city that noise from the concerts was making it difficult for them to enjoy their own homes and that it violated the city’s noise rules.

Code Enforcement Officer Robert Overton took property line decibel meter readings at some of the concerts and agreed they all exceeded the 60 decibel limit and he ordered the concerts to stop.

So The Red Barn’s owner sought permission from the Planning Board, under noise rules adopted last year, to exceed the city’s decibel limits for the free concerts. Alicia Barnes, business manager of The Red Barn, said crowds at the concerts are about 90 percent families.

Planners voted 5–1 to dismiss the request because, some board members said, the restaurant hadn’t tried to reduce the impact of the noise on its neighbors, by doing things like installing sound barriers or changing the location of the stage, before requesting a waiver to the city’s rules.

“I think everyone in the community is supportive of The Red Barn and what they’re doing with these concerts, they are a fixture here in Augusta,” said board member A. Delaine Nye. “But I don’t believe The Red Barn has taken any kind of reasonable initiative to contain the noise.”

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.

Barnes said just the ambient noise from traffic on Riverside Drive registers higher than 60 decibels on a decibel meter on her cell phone. She said even acoustic performers wouldn’t be able to play without exceeding that limit. Barnes said she’s a member of the Waterville Planning Board, and the noise limit in that city is 70 decibels, until after 10 p.m., when it decreases.

She said the hour-long concerts bring families together to enjoy music outdoors.

“We don’t want to decrease the quality of anyone’s life, we’re about building community,” Barnes said. “That’s what we do. And that’s what happens at these events.”

Carrier, who has lived just to the south of The Red Barn for 15 years, said an hour may not seem that long to have to hear a concert next door, but told planners they’d surely be annoyed if someone parked outside their homes and played loud music for an hour straight, once a week, every week, all summer.

“Her genre of music might not be my genre, but I have no choice, it’s being forced upon me, I’m the one that has to close the windows and doors that hour,” Carrier said. “I like to come home and relax and be able to dictate what I have to listen to.”

Board Chairman Corey Vose read a letter from Peter and Kathy Tozier which said they live three houses north of The Red Barn and “we have no objection to these events and often attend the concerts ourselves. The events are well organized and good family entertainment.”

Overton took sound level measurements at King’s properly line to the north and Carriers to the south of the restaurant 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.

Walter McKee, an attorney representing Carrier and King, said The Red Barn held two more concerts after the city ordered them to stop.

Nazar said The Red Barn application was the first request for a waiver since the city adopted the noise limit last year.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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