A Noisy Kicking of the Noisy Can: Ordinance Temporarily The Same

Woodstock Village Trustees listened and grappled with comments at a well-attended meeting last night of people both for and against an extension of a Noise Ordinance to 11p.m. on weekends. Several, including Ann-Marie Boyd, Joan Harvey and Jeffrey Kahn all rose to say an 11pm time for noise to end was “reasonable.”  Harvey said there should be more dancing and laughing not less. Trustee Bob Pear pointed out, that to his knowledge, no one in the Village had asked for the 11pm extension, not even The Woodstock Inn’s Werner Graef.

(Trustee Trish Compton pointed out 11pm was the recommendation of her committee of which Graef had been a part.)

Again many others asked for a wider-scale review of all types of noise regulations to explore the larger issue of “livability”  that would include input from representatives of different Village neighborhoods.  Looking at the broader picture, Mountain Avenue resident Jim Pierce said we are allowing more and more noise pollution into our lives and it should be considered and limited.

When all the was said and done, Trustees decided the 10pm “lights out” for noise on weekends will stay as is.  Nonetheless, anyone, business or resident, is still free to ask Village Trustees  for an extension of that time via a variance for any particular event or reason — nothing has changed there.

However, using a phrase that has become part of the “fiscal cliff” discussion, the Village Trustees (WEB thinks rightly in this case)  have kicked the noise issue “can” down the road.  Trustees listened to pleas from several Village residents, including Gretchen Pear, to not extend the hours but to consider alternatives that would keep regulations as they are, but perhaps issue a set number of “pre-variances” to enable better planning capability for major events at The Woodstock Inn or other hostelries.  Chairman Candace Coburn seemed willing to consider this as a possible alternative as she polled the audience for their feedback.

As part of the discussion, Village Resident Clay Gillette, pointed out that it appeared Village Trustees were making decisions without any facts or data to support their findings — i.e. Whether the net number of weddings has or has not changed at the Woodstock Inn due to the 10pm noise ordinance. Both Trustee Eric Nesbitt and Trustee Trish Compton maintained they had data. When pressed by Woodstock Early Bird for such data, Nesbitt explained he has, in the past, served as an intermediary for someone wanting a wedding at the Inn but the party he was working with had gone elsewhere because of noise regulation issues. Trustee Pear asked Nesbitt what time of year the wedding was scheduled and he said it was February and was to be held inside. At which point, Pear pointed out that situation had little to do with outdoor summer weddings.

Village Trustee Trish Compton said she would be willing to re-visit many of the issues with another meeting of the original Noise Committee, however she noted it was unlikely that group would come up with any different kind of solution. Trustee Chris Miller suggested that the only true way of knowing how the Village really breaks on whether to extend the time of a noise ordinance would be to put it to a public vote. He said he was not hopeful that a new or different committee would be able to wrestle solutions to not one “lights out” issue, but ten or 12 issues related to noise in the Village.

Mimi Baird and Gay Travers, of Mountain Avenue, again (as they did last summer) asked for a thorough review of all possible noise complaints as it seemed everyone was getting stuck “in the weeds” as it were on the small issue of what time The Woodstock Inn should shut down its outdoor weddings.  Compton considered what might be involved and noted what was being asked might take a year or more to review.

In considering a new committee, Woodstock Early Bird pointed out that the original noise committee that included the head of the Woodstock Inn making decisions about his own company was and is a conflict of interest. Chair Coburn disagreed saying it was important for the Inn to have an active voice and make an active contribution to the proceedings as it is the largest employer in town.  Separately, several made the appeal that the voices of residents who live here are just as important as a corporate entity and its interests.

Gary Corsi, also in attendance at the meeting, who has interests as a property maintenance businessman, pointed out that putting an ad in the paper for interested committee members was all fine and good but it would be useless if the committee was made up entirely of people with one point of view. Travers and others suggested the Village Trustees might decide who would be on a new committee from a pool of interested applicants. She pointed out that two of the earlier named committee members, Gail Stickney and Nick Ferro, had never been to any Trustees meeting on the noise issue nor expressed any interest in it in the past.

All participating in the discussion, including Village Trustees, seemed tired out from reviewing the issue and it is unclear the next step. We suspect there may be the creation of a new committee to address a thorough cross-reference of many Village regulations and ordinances related to noise. Simultaneously, there may be a new solution of “pre-approved variances” for some businesses such as the Inn. In addition, it is also possible Trustees will put the 11pm on weekend extension on the noise variance up for a public vote at Town Meeting.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Corwin Sharp on January 9, 2013 at 17:43

    Anybody ever see the movie, “King of Hearts?” There is a certain similarity here between the actions of the residents of the small French village in the movie (populated by escapees from the local insane asylum) and certain aspects of local government. lol!

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  2. Corwin, WEB must watch said movie, we assume for laffs, because we tend to agree. However, we have always had a soft spot for reporting on local government because, if nothing else, it tends to be — from a distance — always guaranteed entertainment.

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    • Posted by Corwin Sharp on January 11, 2013 at 08:25

      “King of Hearts” is a VERY funny movie, which all will enjoy regardless of its or their association or not with this local government or others. Sounds like a disclaimer written by a lawyer! I KNEW I missed my calling…

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  3. Posted by Pat Crocker on January 9, 2013 at 21:46

    All joking aside, this is the sort of issue that might be considered by the planning commission in the context of the Town/Village Master Plan. It would be the best forum with the most appropriate public involvement requirements.

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  4. Posted by Niclas T Ferro on January 9, 2013 at 22:49

    regarding the recent reference by a woodstock resident that ” Nick Ferro had never been to any Trustees meeting on the noise issue nor expressed any interest in the past “,this same person declined to serve on our committee and did not accept our invitation advertised in the Vermont Standard to attend a round table discussion on after hour noise in the village. If you really want to solve the problem you have to make the effort.

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