Woodstock Inn Threatens Legal Action Against Neighbor

The Woodstock Inn has threatened legal action against neighbor and former Village Trustee Bob Pear for his efforts, on behalf of neighbors, to monitor the decibel level of bands playing at the Inn.

In a short note to Pear, shared with Woodstock Early Bird,  the Woodstock Inn’s General Manager Werner Graef accused Pear of abusive behavior to an Inn employee and questioned his monitoring of noise levels from the property line of the Inn, saying he is not the designated enforcer. This followed Pear’s monitoring of last Saturday’s outdoor wedding music,  in which he found levels to be consistently well above the 70 decibel level allowed in existing Village ordinance and despite the fact that compared to decibel readings for other wedding bands, this one was “quieter.”

Pear wrote to a group of neighbors last week (neighbors who share his concerns about noise pollution in the Village) that he had gotten his readings but said he asked Woodstock Police Officer Peter Mantello to confirm, for the record,  what those were. On scene, at the property line, Mantello did confirm them and also tried to assist with bringing down the levels by asking Inn Security personnel if there was something they could do and if they might ask the band to reduce their output to ordinance-approved levels.

Woodstock Early Bird thinks it is really bad road to go down threatening legal action against neighbors since this particular neighbor, Bob Pear, informally represents at least a dozen —  if not more — Village residents who seek factual proof of what they already sense, that the decibel level of entertainment in the Village is consistently getting beyond acceptable limits as codified in existing ordinances.

Perhaps the Woodstock Inn and the Village Trustees might think twice about stirring up trouble and of the advisability of creating the need for a class-action lawsuit by residents against their failure to abide by or enforce existing ordinance?  We are pretty sure that would make for some bad public relations at the very least and some unnecessary legal expenses about which taxpayers would scream at the very most.

Standing in a public place, on a sidewalk at the property line,  to take meter readings and asking both police and the Inn manager on duty for assistance with a local issue is certainly “by the book” — As to employees who don’t like being called out for the Inn’s activities, perhaps they might wish to step down as managers if they are unable to handle uncomfortable situations without calling out “abuse” to their superiors.  Bob Pear may be consistently tenacious — even obnoxiously so —  in his efforts to help the neighborhood, but he is NOT abusive.

Perhaps the Woodstock Inn should take care of some its internal issues before it starts threatening legal action against those who live and work here. We understand that nothing has been done to resolve an employee conflict — with allegations of abuse and sex discrimination — that left one of Woodstock’s best restaurant employees without a job. Has the still-employed subject of that conflict — a male boss – had any action taken so that he will not be equally abusive in the future to other employees and colleagues?  Not that we’ve heard. Maybe we should boycott dining  or staying at Inn establishments until we know it is a more hospitable work environment and one that is more respectful of its neighbors?

There’s a lot of dirty laundry out there that Woodstock Early Bird does NOT and will not air. But we think The Woodstock Inn should learn to play a little nicer with its neighbors and settle its own internal issues before threatening legal action against anyone. The Inn — its managers and others — may not like Bob Pear, but make no mistake he is not acting alone in his search for facts and has the full backing of a considerable number of people in his efforts to keep the quality of life in the Village tolerable.

For the record, we will also now report that Pear measured the decibel level of the band playing on a recent Wednesday evening on the Norman Williams Public Library lawn for what was called “Zucchini-Fest”.  Although the music was provided by a popular local band and played to a couple dozen or so people, the decibel level — as measured by Pear — and certainly heard and sensed by neighbors – was consistently over the  70 db limit.

Essentially the Norman Williams Public Library, of all places, was in violation of existing noise ordinance. Ironic, isn’t it?

Bottom line: No one is enforcing existing, established limits. Instead, those who care and are concerned about quality of life and noise pollution are subject to mocking editorials from The Vermont Standard from puerile, in-need-of-editing, non-residents of the Village, who boldly and arrogantly suggest we all leave. Kinda’ hilarious, no?

What will happen when every home in Woodstock is for sale and it looks like a ghost town because it is no longer livable? The Woodstock Inn, The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and the Village Trustees will have trouble getting anyone to visit, let alone live here, pay taxes or plan a big profitable wedding or business conference.

And, OMG, the new double-decker parking garages placed at great expense will remain empty shells of concrete.

The Village Trustees, led by Chair Candace Coburn, who — it should be stated for the record every time she votes — worked more than 20 years for the Woodstock Inn, have gone on record as saying they are (and always will be?)  in support of the Inn and its activities.

Fact is most folks DO support the Inn. Woodstock Early Bird was employed there full-time for several years herself.

But, as Woodstock Early Bird has already stated, the Village Trustees ignore neighbors and Village residents at their peril. Side with The Woodstock Inn in threatening legal action for the right to have existing ordinance enforced?  That’s asking for a fight you don’t want to have.  Because it’s more than one person who will be in the fight.

The sort of threat offered by Mr. Graef  to Bob Pear will bring just the sort of publicity to Woodstock we expect most would find unseemly. But it’s a new era here now, one that seems to support a free-for-all carnival “me-first” atmosphere where respect and civility for public discussion and one’s neighbors is no longer held in high regard.

23 responses to this post.

  1. Residents who choose to live within a commercial village should not complain about noise levels. If you want quiet, you should live in the country. And WHAT”S WRONG WITH A LITTLE MUSIC?

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    • Posted by marcia on August 21, 2013 at 17:43

      The problem is not with a LITTLE music, but with the intolerable loudness of the music played. Not only is it in violation of the limits, but it is awful for the neighbors. There is no reason that the bands can not turn down the sound and still have a good party.
      It’s quite senseless to suggest that the residents of the village should just put up with this. If we all want a vibrant and lively downtown it is supported by the people who
      live there.

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    • Posted by Janice on August 21, 2013 at 22:35

      Wendy, There is no such thing as a “commercial village.” Parts of the village are designated by ordinance (based on a long history of land use) as RESIDENTIAL, and other parts as COMMERCIAL. But the noise ordinance applies to ALL. And when it even travels outside of the village,all the way to South Woodstock (the COUNTRY, where not everyone can afford to live), I think it’s clear there are problems with the noise level. I think your notion of “choose to live” is an insult to people who live in Section 8 housing, which does not exist in Woodstock outside the village, and to people who have lived in the village for decades and have seen changes over that period of time, increasing the impact of the commercial zone upon the residential zones. This change in the noise ordinance being a case in point.

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  2. Posted by Janice on August 21, 2013 at 17:35

    There have been several nights this summer, unlike past summers, when I’ve been able to hear the loud music all the way up on my hill in South Woodstock, due south of the Inn. Music loud enough to travel that far is most certainly too loud to live with up close. It has been an annoyance, when I want to enjoy the peace and quiet. I think I’ll start noting dates and times, for the record.

    I too found the Standard editorial complaining about the “complainers” offensive. I used to live in the village. Residents put up with a lot in their support of a vibrant downtown and of the Inn, which has never been a good neighbor (just look at the way they maintain their employee housing in what used to be a lovely old village neighborhood). They deserve better than to be told, shut up or leave. Not everyone has the option of leaving, either.And this has nothing to do with the choice of music.

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  3. Posted by Donna on August 21, 2013 at 18:22

    Wendy, I totally agree.

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  4. Posted by Chris SIlva on August 21, 2013 at 19:37

    Seriously? This is the most assinine thing I’ve ever heard. Standing with a decibel meter and calling the cops? Where is bob pear from? New York?

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  5. Posted by Peter on August 21, 2013 at 20:00

    Can you reprint the “short note”? I would guess you could since Mr. Pear shared it with you. It would help folks understand what the Inn is really doing. Also the attack on the Inn about some internal issues that left one of “Woodstock’s best restaurant employees with out a job” rings hollow when you state soon after you don’t air dirty laundry. You don’t get to pick and choose what you air if you want to be credible. I have written into your blog in the past about issues that I do not pick a side on but try to act as an ombudsmen because yes you are allowed to say (and in many cases ramble on) about what you want but it is healthy for your site to have people make sure you live up to you purity guidelines.
    It was not to long ago that you felt “Offcer Jen” was being unduly crusified where is the follow up to that story?
    Your hard work has created a useful site but you do need to be more solid on your reporting guidelines.

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    • Peter,

      What we should have said is, as a total acknowledgement of yes, airing a piece of dirty laundry which is nonetheless germaine to the issue of alleged abuse of Inn employees *see below (which can totally be backed up with emails and facts) is there is plenty more dirty laundry of a similar nature which could be brought up which WON’T be beyond the mention of the internal problem…out of respect for mutually respectful discourse and because it is not relevant to this discussion.

      But, wouldn’t it have been nice if Mr. Graef had written a letter in support of the now unemployed person to her abusive superior (such as the note in support of the employee below) stating that in the future if he conducts himself in such a manner in the future his job will be in jeopardy. This employee – who at the least experienced a hostile environment – no longer with the Inn – was told by the Inn after full professional discussion of incidents that she was , in fact, very much valued by the Inn and that work would be made available to her within a different division. She called back and emailed to inquire about work and was offered none.

      Peter, we’re glad you think of yourself as such an important ombudsman for the community and of this blog…With regard to Officer Jen’s firing, the community could not handle the truth about Officer Jen’s efforts to protect young people – kids, teens and all victims of domestic abuse. She was let go for a series of incidents and virtually all of them were good faith efforts to look out for the safety of young people. As Village Trustee Chair Candace Coburn even admitted no information was provided about the nature of the charges or the nature of the firing as a way to protect others. It is at Officer Jen’s request and because she wishes to continue serving this community that WEB has not provided you any further information — Which is what we do as a journalist who respects the wishes of our sources. The follow-up is that you, and those who thought the same way, got what you wanted: Officer Jen’s badge removed. What more do you need?

      But, in any case, to the case at hand, yes — as you asked for — here is the text of the short letter from Werner Graef to Bob Pear sent August 19th:

      Dear Mr. Pear,

      The Woodstock Inn and Resort has consistently insured that it is in compliance with all Village ordinances and, in particular, the Noise Ordinance. As a resident, should you have a complaint there is a process which you are at liberty to use for lodging that concern with the appropriate officials. You are the not the designated enforcement officer. Your actions last night, Saturday, August 17th 2013 are disturbing in that, not only are you challenging the Inn’s ability to operate within the parameters of the ordinance, but you are now harassing our staff and vendors. Confronting out staff and vendors by making abusive, threatening comments is totally unacceptable, will not be tolerated and should it be repeated will result in legal action. We strive to be good neighbors and expect it to be a reciprocal relationship.

      Sincerely,

      Werner Graef
      President and General Manger (sic)

      Woodstock Early Bird might add that these are charges only — and like any situation — there is another version to the story. But we expect Mr. Pear is already working on something else such as saving Village taxpayers money by getting grants for improvement projects. WEB

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      • Posted by Peter on August 21, 2013 at 21:22

        Julia
        I would never think of myself as important just someone who has grown up in the Internet age where people are allowed to say what ever they want and those that read it are to believe it is the truth. Sounds like the WI was just trying to relay to Mr Pear that their may might be a better way to voice his complaints. In a past life I have had the pleasure to book weddings with live music at the KVI, Jackson House and the old Lauren next to town hall. We worked well with our neighbors because they worked with us.

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        • Posted by Julia on August 21, 2013 at 22:09

          Actually thinking that with your skills expertise and understanding of neighborly diplomacy vis a vis weddings and entertainment that perhaps you might go work the Inn and help resolve some of these issues. Seriously. WEB once attended a Jackson House wedding and it was lovely!

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  6. Posted by Clay Gillette on August 21, 2013 at 20:59

    Wendy (and supporters),
    With respect, I think you are missing something important. I don’t interpret Mr. Pear’s actions as an indictment of music. Rather, I take him to be saying the following: The residents of Woodstock, acting through their elected officials, have enacted a zoning regulation that limits the permissible decibel level of music and other noise; the relevant officials have an obligation to enforce that ordinance and have failed to do so; therefore, I (Mr. Pear) am undertaking to provide evidence to induce the proper authorities to perform their obligations.
    Although I live in an area unaffected by Inn events, I still do not want Village officials to have the discretion to pick and choose among the ordinances and regulations they will enforce or ignore. If the residents and officials of the Village have properly adopted a regulation, and if its violation creates the very disturbance against which it was supposed to protect, what is the argument against its enforcement?
    As an aside, and as someone who actually is from New York (City), let me add that it would be nice to have this conversation without anyone casting aspersions on individuals based on former residence or current part-time residence. It doesn’t advance the debate, but does reveal an attitude that inhibits those who are referred to derogatorily from investing the human or financial capital that I think most would agree should currently be welcome in Woodstock.

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  7. Posted by Lance Webster on August 21, 2013 at 21:04

    Sounds like Mr pear has a pair and Werner what cut them off You go Werner Woodstock doesn’t need the inn but it does need inn guests.”can’t have your cake” WCdeplume

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    • Hmmm here is the part you missed …Werner et. al have forgotten you need Villagers to enhance the Inn and to plant flowers and contribute to a quaint Village hustle and bustle…No Villagers but Inn- a hollow victory WC

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  8. Posted by Chris SIlva on August 22, 2013 at 07:58

    One more thought. Love it or hate it, whatever your feelings, patron, employee, former employee. There is one indisputable fact that it seems Mr. Pear fails to realize. The Woodstock Inn is the engine that drives (and has always driven) Woodstocks economy. Mr Pear enjoys his beautiful village as a direct result of the efforts of the early developers of the Inn. Am I the only reader who sees the irony of his whining?

    Here’s what Woodstock becomes without the continued love and support of the Woodstock Inn. Bethel. Pull your head out of your ass Bob.

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    • Chris,

      Here is what you don’t get: Neighbors want existing ordinances enforced. Period. This is not about music, this is not about shutting down the Woodstock Inn. It is about degrees of sound. Noise is stressful. Noise is a pollution no different from any other kind of pollution. The stress caused by noise levels that are too high is a detriment to good health. The existing ordinance of 70db is akin to that of a vacuum cleaner running- Would you want that outside your home for two to three hours? Didn’t think so. And that is the existing “OK” level.

      Knowing you, we are pretty sure you are bright enough to understand this is not a black and white Inn/No Inn issue.

      Here is the irony you and others may fail to understand: If this Village is not livable, people WILL leave. It will be empty except for the rows of homes with for sale signs. And if we are speaking only about the Inn, that is not good for business.

      A community which respects its residents is a plus for business. Seems Kennebunkport Maine was very busy this summer when we were there yet, as you drive into the main Village there are very clear signs that noise ordinances must be adhered to. This is clearly a tourist town that respects the needs of its residents.

      On the subject of the Inn being the economic engine of Woodstock, we have for some time been writing about the need for this Village to wean itself of the tourism only business model. Pay up for fiber optic hubs, offer something of value for an internet-based or intellectual based economy and you will still fill the Inn but not be dependent on its existence to the detriment of Village life.

      Let’s see you have now insulted those who live in New York and those who live in Bethel. But who knows, Bethel could become the next White River Junction a place that has seen a rebirth due to the creation of its Cartoon College…it is a cool place to be. While Woodstock maintains its fierce grip on The Woodstock Inn and tourism at all costs, including its Village people. (Yes, that is what she wrote.) WEB

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  9. Posted by Annie macDonald on August 22, 2013 at 17:31

    Living in a democracy means there are laws, rules and ordinances to follow. There are officials who should enforce them, not chooses between the offenders, because of their station in the community. There are those individuals who feel they are exempt, who do not wish to follow the clear rules, etc. Who seem to feel and act as though they are entitled.
    I don’t stop at the stop sign, I should be ticketed, I play my personal music so my neighbor has to hear it (shame on me). I park in a handicap zone, oh just running into Mac’s for a soda, shame. I speed I get a ticket. I don’t pay my taxes and you know what happens then. Shall I go on?
    So it goes good for you but not for me?

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  10. Posted by Pat on August 22, 2013 at 17:45

    Some of your readers may have heard the expression “SLAP Suit” and others not. For those that have not, I offer the Wikipedia link to the definition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_lawsuit_against_public_participation

    A strategic lawsuit against public participation is a bullying tactic used to shut off the kind of public participation that Bob Pear and others believe is integral to a healthy community and local democracy.

    If the current ordinances outlining noise limitations are not being enforced, that’s a legitimate concern for all of us in the community…whether it is in our earshot or not.

    The larger issue of a enforcing a reasonable regulatory system is a concern. If the community wants to eliminate any and all noise regulations it certainly can do that; but until then citizens have a right to even-handed enforcement.

    Threatening legal action in the form of a SLAP suit is not exactly a neighborly way to resolve this matter.

    And it doesn’t inspire goodwill toward the Inn by local residents either.

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  11. Posted by Pat on August 22, 2013 at 18:25

    For inquiring minds who want more information about SLAPP Suits and First Amendment Rights, here’s a practical link: http://www.thefirstamendment.org/antislappresourcecenter.html
    Vermont is one of the states that has legislation protecting defendants in these cases.

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  12. Posted by Molly on August 23, 2013 at 13:02

    Wendy……the first commenter totally missed the point. Even if you live in the
    village, why should those owners move or live in the country. Come on folks,
    it is noisy in the village……why should they be subjected to constant loudness?
    The Woodstock Inn is barking up the wrong tree to sue any neighbor when the noise
    levels are way too high. Best wishes to Bob Pear….So many of us support him.
    Thanks, Julia, you presented the facts very clearly.

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  13. Posted by Molly on August 23, 2013 at 13:08

    Chris Silva does not get it either.
    Julia, your reply is clear…he may get it now.

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  14. Posted by Lance Webster on August 23, 2013 at 13:52

    Julia wasn’t looking for a victory hollow or other wise just saying you got a guy with his own decibel meter checking decibels in the night what did he get turned down for a job being a mall cop As for slapp law suits it’s not SLAPP if the suit has teeth and I mean teeth that bite. I know Werner not well but I do know him and if I was Mr Pear I would take him at his word I DO
    WCdeplume

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