Noise Ordinance Waiver Request Stymied in Committee

OSWEGO, NY – A local tavern owner’s request for a waiver of the noise ordinance created a din at Monday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting.

Don Wahrendorf, representing The Sting, 49 W. Bridge St., requested a noise variance for the summer months for live acoustic music (two-piece sets) on the patio between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., Wednesday-Saturday evenings, depending on the availability of the musicians.

The committee had previously tabled the request pending further information.

“I was told by one councilor that we had all kinds of complaints from people on Bridge Street. I asked the people on Bridge Street and they said they didn’t complain,” Wahrendorf said.

First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright read a correspondence he received from two dozen residents of his ward.

“As working families and homeowners, we are absolutely opposed to any waiver for the noise ordinance being granted to the Sting tavern,” he read. “The proposal to waiver or weaken the rules to allow the Sting to play music beyond the allowable 65 decibels well into the night resulted in many calls to the police last year.”

The loud music “repels families from choosing our neighborhood and encourages existing families to move out,” he continued.

“We had five complaints in two months. I don’t think that is too awfully bad,” Wahrendorf said quoting figures from the police chief.

He added that there is another bar “130 feet away” from the Sting that also has bands.

“I have gotten no complaints about any other bar,” Enwright said.

“These people chose to live in a downtown area or near a downtown area,” Wahrendorf said.

He said he wanted to know where the complaints came from, adding that “I can probably guess where they came from.”

A resident of the West Park area said the music was a nuisance in his neighborhood; and that he has walked toward Bridge Street at times and is certain the music he heard was emanating from the Sting.

Some of his neighbors are thinking about leaving, he added.

“The Sting, the Sting in particular, creates a huge noise,” he said. “I certainly don’t object to you being able to you being able to play music at night. I just question whether it has to be really loud.”

Former Third Ward Councilor Ed Harrington lives across the street from the bar.

He claimed no one actually has enforced the ordinance.

“Do I know (the noise) is coming from the Sting? You bet your life I know it’s coming from the Sting!” he said. “We’re not hurting anybody’s business down there because at best on the best night during Harborfest, there were no more than a dozen people out there. They’re blasting the music hoping they might draw someone in.”

Another area resident said they checked out the area in the daytime, before deciding to buy their home.

Now, the noise makes it difficult for them to get any sleep on the nights the bar has bands, she added.

“It’s just really disheartening. It’s difficult, it’s like if we had known this was going to be a part of our life here at this location, (we might not have moved here),” she said.

If people would contact him, Wahrendorf said he would have taken care of things.

“Absolutely, I would have had them tone it right down,” he said.

Council President Ron Kaplewicz pointed out that this council is working on creating a fair and equal way to enforce the noise ordinance and grant variances.

“We are working diligently on that effort,” he said.

There is a set decibel level that if exceeded, the establishment can be told to turn it down or turn it off, he noted.

“That’s what we’re proposing in respect to this variance,” he explained.

“We’re not looking to kill someone’s business. But, there’s no reason someone sitting on that patio … cannot listen to that music that close without the volume being so loud that it’s driving people out of their houses in the First Ward,” Harrington said. “The music need only be played loud enough for the patrons to hear; not the people across the street.”

Committee chair Dan Donovan voted to send the request to the full council for consideration. Councilors Eric VanBuren and Fran Enwright voted against.

1 Comment

  1. No local tavern’s need to have any noise ordinance waivers downtown, they can simply contain the music to the inside of their structures and not outside or partly outside.
    There arise immediate questions to the proponent, Don Wahrendorf’s, statements, for instance: he says he questioned “the” people on Bridge Street, what people? How many? Were they residents? At what time of day or night?
    And why was the sample only people on Bridge Street?
    The music from the present Bar with a variance (oddly enough owned by a City Employee) can clearly be heard at least 3 -5 blocks from the location (as the noise venue is outside) in any direction. Clearly making inroads to residential neighborhoods that are not downtown, and are 3 or more blocks away from downtown.
    At a residence 3+ blocks away from “Spencer’s Ali” the horn section of the well known local band playing there the other night could be clearly and loudly identified. And horns are “acoustic” and the noise carries.
    Why would or should residents paying onorous levels of property tax wish to subsidize tavern owner’s income on the back of their own rights to “quiet enjoyment”?
    One could easily argue the other direction, that since the noise levels already generated by the present bar with an ordinance waiver combined with the drunk and disorderly noise levels of the frequenters of the downtown bars (which noise has existed for far longer than the new and augmented levels created by the Spencer’s Ali waiver) as they weave and noisily shout their way home or to one or another of the many parties at the “Party” houses along the way, why not add yet again more noise the the already cacaphonous din?
    Why not? Because as was pointed out by someone attending the Council Meeting, it drives owner-occupied homes away, drives families away, destroys neighborhoods, driving down property values and makes them fit only for rentals, eroding the property tax base and costing the city in income, not to mention the chaos created when neighborhoods are comprised of only rentals where crime of all kinds is known to increase, costing the city yet more money.
    Whether or not complaints have been filed, it is a simple matter to walk 3 – 5 blocks in any direction from “Spencer’s Ali” when a band is playing and on many nights, most, in fact, if not all, the music will be clearly heard, even inside of a house.
    Simple choice here, people, if the bars downtown want music, keep it inside the building like The Raven, Old City Hall and many other venues do.
    There is no reason to grant any variances for outside music, the idea itself is preposterous, and the one granted to Clubhouse/Spencer’s Ali should be revoked.
    Let’s not use that one mistake to justify more mistakes.

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