Above: Representatives of Blu and Finn’s waterfront restaurants talk with the town’s acoustics consultant James Miller outside Council Chambers to arrange a meeting.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Town Council Monday night decided to wait until its meeting July 8 to consider changes to the noise ordinance for the waterfront, pending results of a noise study. 

That didn’t sit well with a couple of residents who spoke during public comment but lawyer for Blu on the Water and Finn’s Harborside, Jeff Gladstone, tried to reassure both the council and residents that the restaurant owners were willing to do their part to ameliorate the situation.

The situation is amplified music from outdoor bands at those waterfront restaurants during the warm weather months and the behavior of some patrons when departing those establishments. Find previous stories here, and here.

With the summer season just days away with Memorial Day weekend, Gladstone spoke in generous terms of trying to improve the situation at the waterfront for residents.

“The bottom line is we are willing to do not anything but a lot. We’re going to be doing that. We will do what needs to be done,” he said.

Blu on the Water’s outside tent.

The town hired acoustics consultant James Miller in March, but he hasn’t yet been able to take sound readings since the season for outdoor music is just starting. Miller told the council Monday he had gotten a sense of the area and noted that the distance between Blu and Finn’s and area homes was, in some cases, “very close,” but he noted that residents farther away were also annoyed.

“Topography and atmospheric effects are likely exacerbating the problem,” Miller said. “Sound can be refracted by temperature inversions, like in the evening, also reflected by large structures, such as the railroad trestle.”

He said the orientation of the speakers could also play a part.

Miller said he planned to spend a couple of unannounced weekend evenings and non-music weeknights down at the waterfront taking decibel readings. He also recommended a fixed system to monitor the waterfront for up to a month, collecting sound data 24/7, mounted on one or two utility poles.

While he conceded the fix system would only be able to take sound levels, with no distinction as to their origin, he said those readings combined with his in-person readings and observations would paint a picture of what was going on sound-wise at the waterfront.

“We were hoping that … we’d have something more substantial tonight,” King Street resident Joe Gelineau told the council. “They’re going to pick up this weekend just like we left off last year. Could we lower the base decibel until we work this out?”

“Anything that could help remediate some of these issues immediately, that would be great,” Councilwoman Renu Englehart told lawyer Gladstone. “I think that would be the ideal situation. At least so they have some peace of mind going into the summer it’s not going to be the same situation.”

Gladstone said the restaurant owners would meet with consultant Miller right away to start working on things – such as speaker orientation – that could be done immediately.

Other action items already in the works were to target trash more aggressively, and to make it clear to patrons that the waterfront residents were their neighbors and to be respectful. Gladstone also said Blu had made more room for parking to help with traffic backing up on King and Water streets. He stopped short of a voluntary reduction in decibel levels, however. 

The next waterfront meeting will be held at Blu on June 11, with all waterfront stakeholders invited.

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