Intense noise concerns from area residents were not enough to convince City Councilors last week to reject a request by the Merrimon-Wynne house for a special use permit for amplified outdoor sound.
Owner Jodi Heyens and her family purchased the house at 500 North Blount Street in 2013 and restored it with the intention of using it as a wedding and event venue.
Heyens said she has made a strong effort to work with concerned neighbors.
“The Merrimon-Wynne house is very much a labor of love for me,” Heyens said. “I’ve tried very, very hard to work with the neighbors.”
She also emphasized how much was riding on the permit request because of the need to offer brides some form of certainty that they will be able to have the wedding and reception they desire at the home.
“If we do not get this permit, I will have to shut down my business and I will have to sell the Merrimon-Wynne house.”
Several area residents spoke out in support of the request and applauded Heyens’ restoration efforts.
Neighbor Nancy Brooks said while she and her husband know the house is there, it does not disturb them.
“I’ve never heard any noise from the house,” Brooks said. “The guests are not rowdy.”
Opposing the Permit
Lisa Ogburn was one of those who spoke out in opposition, saying the level of noise from events that have already been held at the house without the proper permits and Ms. Heyens’ lack of response to complaints compelled her to come forward.
“Ms. Heyens has never been compliant with the law in regard to an Amplified Outdoor Entertainment permit. She has never had this even though she has claimed to us verbally and in emails that she has the correct permits,” Ogburn said. “Do we reward such a breach with a permit? And can we reasonably expect the outcome to be satisfactory?”
Members of the City Council also expressed concern.
Councilor Russ Stephenson said he found it troubling that events have been held at the home without the proper permits and he did not see how the noise concerns were ever going to be adequately addressed.
“It is really disturbing to me that you’ve had all these outdoor amplified events without … city permits and I don’t hear any sense of regret or remorse,” Stephenson said. “It’s really hard for me to imagine that you’re ever going to be able to do something that is compatible with the residential neighbors around you.”
Mayor Nancy McFarlane struggled to find a compromise.
“You both stand to lose a lot,” McFarlane said. “I am trying to figure out if there’s some way to allow her to continue for X number of months while she actively pursues some other type of sound barrier system that will work.”
Councilors granted Heyens a provisional six-month permit, asking her to work diligently to come up with a better solution for the noise issues.
Person Street Bar’s Approval
The Person Street Bar was granted a provisional permit for amplified sound, despite deep concerns from area residents.
Councilors granted a six-month provisional permit to the bar for amplified sound and live music events in their parking lot up to four times a year, tasking the bar’s owners with encouraging their patrons to be more respectful to neighbors. Area residents will have the opportunity to assess how imposing the outdoor music will be.
Person Street Bar co-owner Justin Pasfield said they’ve worked very hard to address the concerns of residents.
“We want to engage the community and we want to work together,” Pasfield said. “We want to be open about what we’re trying to do as a bar and hopefully we can address concerns together.”
Pasfield emphasized the fact that the requested permit was for background music on the bar’s rear patio.
“We’re talking about background music. We’re not talking about live music or loud music,” Pasfield said.
Keeping it Down
While several neighbors spoke out in favor of the request, not everyone was convinced.
Area resident Alicia Johnson said it has been very difficult for her to live across the street from the bar and enjoy her home.
“My quality of life has been altered by an establishment that I am not welcome in and one in which has become notorious for noise, obnoxious patrons and inconsideration of its neighbors,” Johnson said.
“I ask City Council consider all of the neighbors in this area and not just the business.”
John Brooks, another area resident, cited the bar’s proximity to Peace College as reason to limit the noise from the bar.
“This is half a block from Peace College,” Brooks said. ““The students need to be able to study. They need to be able to sleep.”
“I feel like them bringing Hopscotch and some of these other daytime events down our way, it actually will actually bring more people to our neighborhood and to the neighborhood businesses.”
The matter will be addressed again in six months. If the residents’ concerns have been sufficiently addressed, the permit will be extended.