Oak Bluffs neighbors complain of loud music
Oak Bluffs is a hub of entertainment on the Island, but this summer residents say they are sick of the amplified and outdoor music blasting from a few establishments downtown.
The Oak Bluffs selectmen met with residents and business owners Tuesday to discuss the ongoing noise dispute and plan to meet again today, informally, at the Oyster Bar and Grill on Circuit Ave.
And the selectmen granted Nancy's Snack Bar, up for renewal of its entertainment license, a temporary license only, valid until the end of the month, when it will be reconsidered in light of additional complaints, if any, from neighbors and townspeople.
Police Chief Erik Blake said complaints about loud music have been common this summer from all over the downtown area. Nancy's, The Island House, and Little Pete's Seafood Grill have drawn the most complaints, he said.
The thumping bass amplification keep Circuit Avenue neighborhoods awake at night. Photo by Ralph Stewart
"I love music. I love entertainment. But it's the noise level that's got to stop," said Helen Scarborough, who lives on Central Avenue behind the Island House. "It's unbearable."
Another Island House abutter, Chuck Masterson, said two small children sleeping in his home recently were awakened one evening around 11:15 pm by loud music. "I think sooner or later that really has to stop. It has to stop."
During the July Fourth weekend, Chief Blake said he made a site visit to a home next to the Island House. Standing in a child's bedroom late in the evening, he said it would be almost impossible to sleep due to the bass and amplification from the venue.
Caleb Caldwell owns the Madison Inn on Kennebec Avenue, which lies just inches from Little Pete's, which hosts live music. "My ability to make a living there is being infringed," said Mr. Caldwell, explaining that five guests this summer have asked for a refund because of the noise level. "Whose rights are more important? Do we have equal rights?"
Peter Bradford, owner of Little Pete's, reminded the board that they granted him an entertainment license this spring, allowing him to play live music. He said he spent $3,000 to insulate the bar area, and keeps all doors and windows closed.
The selectmen are split on what immediate action should be taken. Selectman Kerry Scott said new legislation regarding amplified and outdoor music must be put on the books, while Greg Coogan pressed for an amicable resolution among neighbors.
Mr. Coogan said new bylaws may be useful in the future, "but right now it's August first, and we need the problem solved today, tomorrow, the next day."
"I don't agree. I think we need to legislate this," Ms. Scott said. "Caleb raised a really good point and it's one we need to consider. Have we put ourselves in a position where someone's rights are trumped?"
Chief Blake explained that the town bylaws allow music until 11 pm, but an entertainment license issued by the board of selectmen allows businesses to ignore that stipulation. Another bylaw dictates that music must not be heard more than 100 feet from the business, but when abutters are one or two feet away, what's to be done?
"I'm glad I'm not a selectman tonight because it's a very tough position to be in," Chief Blake said.
Michael Gillespie, co-owner of The Oyster Bar, offered his restaurant as a meeting place for neighbors and business owners, and selectman chairman Duncan Ross said he would attend as an observer. The meeting will take place today at 4 pm.