The City Council voted unanimously Monday to continue a summer concerts series on the Portland waterfront that has generated noise complaints on Munjoy Hill.

Waterfront Concerts is expected to book another 15 shows at the Maine State Pier during the coming year, according to Andy Downs, the city’s director of public assemblies.

Downs said the city received 130 complaints during the 2017 season, which featured 17 concerts. That’s far more than previous years, but he noted that at no point did the concerts violate sound levels in the ordinance.

“They have been in compliance throughout the season, staying in that range,” Downs said.

Nobody spoke either for or against the concert series. However, two Munjoy Hill residents wrote to councilors asking them to vote against the license because of legal issues with Alex Gray, the owner and president of Waterfront Concerts.

In October, Gray pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence assault of his former girlfriend, though he denied hitting her after an argument at his Portland condo last March.

Waterville Street resident Karen Snyder said in an email to councilors that she was surprised to see the council moving forward with another concert season.

“So, not only yet another year of having the Waterfront Concerts invade our homes and reduce our quality of life, the city manager is knowingly doing business with a guy who has been convicted of domestic violence,” she said.

Several councilors asked whether Gray, who did not attend the meeting, was still involved in the company.

Jon Dow, who represented Waterfront Concerts at Monday’s meeting, said that Gray continues to be the owner and president of the company. “With that said, there’s far more than Alex with the company,” he said.

Councilors complimented efforts made by city staff and Waterfront Concerts to address noise concerns.

Downs said the promoter added privacy panels at the entryway of the pier to discourage crowds from gathering, increased security at the nearby parking garage and made it easier for ferry riders to access the terminal.

“Last year, I think was a significant improvement,” said City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, who is also the operations manager of the Casco Bay Lines.” I see it on a day-to-day basis.”

Of the 130 noise complaints the city received last season, 22 were for the Disco Biscuits concert on May 27, and 23 came during Dillon Frances on Sept. 10, which included several complaints from South Portland.

City officials also kept a list of the 91 unique callers and highlighted names of people who call on a repeated basis.

The number of noise complaints has steadily risen over the years, though decibel readings taken on site indicate that the venue rarely exceeds the 92 decibel limit outlined in the city code – a sound limit equivalent to a power mower.

In 2016, 45 noise complaints were filed over 28 shows. That exceeded the number in 2015, when 26 noise complaints were filed over 27 shows.

An analysis by the Portland Press Herald last year revealed that the decibel levels were basically the same in 2016 as they were in 2015, and that the loudest shows in terms of decibel levels didn’t always generate the most complaints.

City Manager Jon Jennings said in a memo to councilors that last year the city netted $54,000 from the concerts through ticket fees, merchandise, and food and beverage percentages.

Jennings said the promoter also reimburses the costs of city staff.

The city has been re-examining its sound ordinance. Last summer, the city installed 13 noise monitors, at a cost of $50,000, throughout the city to get baseline data before making any updates to the ordinance.

City Councilor Belinda Ray, who represents the east side of the city, said she believes the increase in complaints is a result of the city’s streamlined complaint and tracking process.

“I do think there was a huge improvement from 2016 to 2017,” she said.

 

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