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Civic Associations Support Beer Garden Plan

by ARLnow.com May 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm 3,597 52 Comments

Update at 2:10 p.m. on 5/14/11 — The County Board has put off final action on the Westover Beer Garden until Tuesday. It appears that the board is leaning toward approving some sort of live entertainment permit with additional restrictions.

Below are letters from the presidents of four civic associations in favor of a compromise that would allow the Westover Market’s popular beer garden to host live entertainment three days per week. The proposal is up for a vote by the County Board on Saturday.

County staffers are recommending against granting a live entertainment permit for the beer garden.

Dear Members of the County Board,

I am writing to you as the president of the Westover Village Civic Association. In the past few months, we have had several community meetings to discuss the Westover Beer Garden, allowing residents to voice their opinions about the garden and to seek common ground in addressing issues associated with it. During the last week of April, the civic association conducted a vote to determine community feelings. The residents of our civic association overwhelmingly voted to support the beer garden and its live music permit on the condition that it make a good faith effort to minimize noise disturbances to the immediate neighbors.

For most people in Westover and the neighboring civic associations, the Beer Garden is a treasured part of Westover life. It is an anchor for the community where neighbors young and old frequently gather on warm evenings to share a meal and listen to live music. Along with the new Westover Branch Library and Reed School, the beer garden has helped to strengthen a sense of community belonging and spur civic spirit. The garden has also revived the fortunes of the Westover Market, which faces stiff competition from the nearby Safeway and Harris Teeter without the niche advantage that the beer garden provides. The owners of the garden argue that live music brings in many customers and helps keep the business going.

The main problem with the garden is the noise that it has created in the past, disturbing the immediate neighbors who live directly behind it. These neighbors raise valid concerns that deserve to be addressed. Accordingly, it would be sensible to put a series of conditions on the beer garden live music permit. Based on the civic association vote, the majority of residents support limiting live music to 6 to 8 pm on Wednesdays and 6-10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights as a reasonable compromise. The sound levels should stay within existing county requirements. In order to enforce these conditions, the Beer Garden owners have committed themselves to investigate technical means to measure the sound at the fence of the nearest neighbor and record these measurements over time with data possibly posted to the Internet as a way of ensuring that the Beer Garden operates within legal limits.

Out of 109 valid votes from residents in the Westover Village Civic Association area, 90 voted to support the above recommendations; 13 supported fewer hours of operation for the live music; and 6 were opposed to granting this permit. I hope that you will take this input into account as you prepare to vote on the live music permit at your May 14 meeting.

Robert Orttung
Westover Village Civic Association President

More letters, after the jump.

Dear Members of the County Board,

The Leeway Overlee Civic Association similarly supports the granting of the Use Permit for the Westover Market’s beer garden by the County Board. At our last Leeway Overlee General Membership meeting held 16 April 2011 we took an informal vote on our support of the beer garden at Westover Market, assuming provisions are put in place to limit the decibels of music and the hours of operation. The vote was unanimous in support of live music at the beer garden, with the caveat that the provisions that are accepted would have to be supported by the immediate (most effected) neighbors in the Westover Civic Association. Based on the Westover Civic Association described below, I believe those provisions are supported.

Therefore, please accept this email as evidence of support by the Leeway Overlee Civic Association of the Use Permit the Westover Beer Garden seeks in order to allow them to have live music. If you have any questions or need further information, please contact me at one of the numbers below.

Sincerely,

Karla Brown
President, Leeway Overlee Civic Association

The Tara Leeway Heights civic association supports the County Board granting a Use Permit for the Westover Market’s beer garden. Our civic association has worked with the surrounding citizens and civic associations, and been active during discussions regarding issues surrounding the granting of the Use Permit. The residents of the Westover civic association are those most affected by the issue of noise from live music. We therefore support the below correspondence from the Westover civic association where the Westover civic association supports a Use Permit for the Westover Market’s beer garden with certain limitations on the times and noise levels for live music.

Best Regards,

Bill Braswell
President Tara Leeway Heights Civic Association

Dear Members of the County Board,

The Highland Park – Overlee Knolls (HP-OK) Civic Association, like its neighboring Civic Associations, supports granting a Live Music Special Use Permit for the Westover Market beer garden. On Tuesday, May 10, at our HP-OK General Membership meeting, the thirty assembled members voted unanimously in support of allowing live music at the Beer Garden, under the conditions recommended by the Westover Civic Association. This approach balances the desire of the Westover Market to provide live music and a gathering place for residents with the need to protect neighboring residents from intrusive noise levels.

The live music permit has generated significant interest among members of the community, and we applaud the efforts of the Westover Civic Association to engage the surrounding community and Civic Associations in a full and open dialogue that allowed issues and concerns to be aired. Drawn from these discussions are a set of reasonable recommendations that both allow a local business to thrive and protects neighboring residents.

Furthermore, I am confident that the spirit and the letter of the recommendations can be implemented, and that sufficient community oversight is in place to ensure a timely resolution if any future concerns arise. The Highland Park Overlee Knolls Civic Association encourages the County Board to approve the Live Music Special Use Permit under the conditions recommended by the Westover Civic Association.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Alan Howze
President, Highland Park – Overlee Knolls Civic Association

  • CW

    This is becoming the textbook definition of a tempest in a teapot.

    • HC Carey

      I can’t agree–it’s a classic case of what politics is supposed to do, harmonize competing interests. Lots of people love the music, a few people find it offensive. Neither is “wrong,” they just have different desires. Politics is supposed to try to hash out a compromise

      • madisonmanor

        Except that the problem over the past 20 years or so (both in Arlington and across the country) is that actions are taken to pander to those few. Can’t use the word ‘retard’ anymore because people who are work with mentally retarded (not the mentally retarded themselves) are offended. Steve can’t smoke in restaurants anymore because of second-hand smoke complaints (I’m not Steve and hate smoking, so I’m being hypocritical here, but it serves my point). Even fire alarm drills (from a post a day or two ago) provide conflicting messages and ultimately don’t serve the people they are trying to protect. It shouldn’t be about compromise. Arlington’s unenforceable noise ordinance states that it’s only a problem after 9pm. Let the beer garden exist and have live or piped in music or comedians or karaoke or whatever, but shut it down at 9pm – and nobody has the right to complain until the County comes up with a revised noise ordinance.

        • groucho

          Uh, yes, the mentally retarded themselves are offended by the use of that term. I have actually asked them about it, unlike you.

          Second-hand smoke forces people to breathe poisonous gases. The right to breathe trumps the right to smoke, especially when you can smoke all you want at home or outside.

          Yammering about “pandering” solves nothing and enlightens nobody.

      • madisonmanor

        Compromise isn’t necessary here – common sense is. Why should a few people be able to dictate differently what three different community associations’ members deem acceptable? If I remember correctly, there was an uproar here a year ago about the Senate filibuster being able to accomplish basically the same thing. The un-enforceable Arlington noise ordinance states that loud noise has to cease after 9pm. What’s to stop a few musicians from running into each other at the Beer Garden and trying to play a few songs and end the gig by 9? IF things aren’t too bad, I could see a petition in the future to ask for occasional extensions until 10pm.

        • HC Carey

          I support both the beer garden and live music at the beer graden. I live where we can plainly hear it. I don’t think this is the minority dictating–the county is trying to find a way to harmonize the interests of the majority, which wants live music, and the minority, which doesn’t. I don’t call that “dictating,” and I’m not really interested in ramming through something that makes some of my neighbors miserable, even if it makes most of my neighbors happy. American govt. was never supposed to be about simple rights of the majority

  • John Fontain

    “For most people in Westover and the neighboring civic associations, the Beer Garden is a treasured part of Westover life”

    I’d love to see the factual support for the claim that “most people in Westover” treasure the garden. Mr. Orttung, did you ask each resident in the area?

    • There was a community meeting in Westover & a vote. A friend who was at the meeting told me that out of 109 votes, 90 were in favor of the compromise plan. That’s beyond most.

      • KArlington

        We don’t support the live music idea and attended the HPOK meeting but didn’t bother to vote one way or another because all the sheep were clearly heading the other way. I’m sure there are others like us who could see that our vote simply wouldn’t make a difference and then our neighbors would be all huffy about us curmudgeons who think grocery stores should stay grocery stores.

        • i’m not trying to be rude or stir anything up, but you understand how ridiculous this sounds, right? you do not support it… you went to the meeting… you didn’t vote… and now you expect people to believe that there are plenty more like you?

          • Jezebel

            +10

      • John Fontain

        If a neighborhood has 2,000+ residents and 90 vote to support a live music permit, that means 4.5% of the residents support live music. It does NOT mean that “most” of the residents support it.

        • Mark

          Several times at today’s county board meeting, each of the five members alluded to the local neighborhood associations’ support of the live music permit. It was obvious that the overwhelming support of the local residents who attended and participated in the process set up by their local neighborhood civic associations had an impact on the county members’ decision to affirm their support for a live music permit for the Westover Market’s Beer Garden. Whether that support translates into a real permit remains to be seen. The county board appears prepared to vote Tuesday on a set of conditions – to be drawn up by county staff in the next three days – that would be attached to the permit. And those conditions could include a requirement that there be only un-amplified music during a two-month pilot period in July and August, as was discussed at today’s meeting.

          The fact that the county board members alluded to the local neighborhood civic associations’ positions on the live music permit demonstrates that individuals’ involvement in civic matters, at least at the local level, CAN have an impact on legislative and regulatory matters.

          Of course, Arlington residents can cite many recent examples of when Arlington County Board votes did not conform to the majority opinion of local residents on important matters. Approving a site permit for the new Cherrydale Fire Station on the land west of the Toyota dealership, instead of on the land to the east of the existing Cherrydale Fire Station (where the Bromptons of Cherrydale condominium building has been under construction for eternity), as was the preferred site by the Cherrydale and Maywood civic associations, is one example.

        • Burger

          So, the people that didn’t spend the time to file a negative vote deserve to have their opinions respected. Sorry, those people choose not to take the time to put forth their opinion. So to me that don’t deserve to complain.

          If a majority of the “non-supporters” showed up and voted against the Beer Garden the County Board would have likely denied the music permit. If you do not think so ask O’Connell high school.

          • Burger

            Sorry, those people that were against the beer garden music permit were so enraged, they didn’t even show up to a community hearing about it.

          • John Fontain

            There is a difference between being indifferent and believing the Garden is a “treasure.” You can’t conclude “most people in Westover support the Garden” when only 100 people out of 2,000 voice their opinion. You can conclude that most people who voted supported it or that at least 90 people in the neighborhood support it.

  • Ben

    But government knows best!

  • John Fontain

    Simple question for Robert Orttung, Karla Brown, Bill Braswell, and Alan Howze – Are any of you personally willing to agree to allow the beer garden to relocate to a location within 100 to 125 feet of your house?

    • JimPB

      You didn’t ask me, but: Yes. Definitely.

      • JimPB

        P.S. I’d love to see clones of the Westover Market Beer Garden, with the live local singing bringing the community (children to seniors — like me) together for convenient, enjoyable listening and often interactions. Aren’t such opportunities what helps make a community meaningful and not just an area in which one happens to reside?

        • CW

          I wish we had something like this in Clarendon even…no striped-shirt and $300-jeans dbags allowed. Just somewhere to chill out and enjoy a summer night.

          • ET

            I think both IOTA and Galaxy Hut fits that description. And, of course, the not-long-for-this-world Jay’s Saloon. Shoot, even Eat Bar is low key and sans $300 jeans on most nights.

        • Troll Patrol

          I bet you would love to have some hip-hop, salsa, etc., to really bring the “community” together.

    • Alan Howze

      John – give it up. You’ve posted the same question in four or five different places in multiple threads. I imagine you think it’s a clever trick to pose a “what if it happened to you” question, but as you admitted on the other thread you don’t even live in our neighborhood. This has been a topic of local discussion for some time now and the Civic Associations have all been working to find workable solutions. My hat goes off to Bob Orttung, who has really led the effort to create community dialogue and resolution (and who, incidentally, lives quite close to the Beer Garden) – and that takes a heck of a lot more effort than sniping blog posts.
      And yes, under the restricted conditions developed by the Westover Civic Association, I would be more than willing.

      • John Fontain

        Alan,

        Thanks for finally responding to my question and sorry (I guess) about posting it twice (or as you say, in “five different places”). I didn’t realize such a simple question could work someone up into such a lather. That was not my intent. It’s just a beer garden, after all.

        Your reference to my not living in the neighborhood seems to imply that only those who immediately surround the Market should have a voice in the matter. Yet, you don’t live in the immediately surrounding houses either and have voiced your opinion with much vigor.

        I, for one, see much irony in this. If relative proximity to the Market bears weight, then it seems to me that “votes” of the immediately surrounding neighbors who oppose live music should count more than yours and the other neighbors who live further away. That is, if we want to follow your own logic on this matter.

        “My hat goes off to Bob Orttung, who has really led the effort to create community dialogue…”

        What I find really interesting – and others might too – is the fact that Mr. Orttung’s purported effort to determine his community’s sentiment in late April was preceded by private emails months earlier in which he declared the need to present a unified front of community support to the county board. Nothing like a representative official putting the cart before the horse, right?

        Given his pre-determined objective, one might reasonably question: (1) whether his soliciting of votes on the matter was properly conducted via private emails to him (rather than a public community vote) and, more importantly, (2) whether the voting alternatives (two options supporting live music to varying extents, one option opposing the beer garden in general, and NO options saying the beer garden should remain open but without live music) properly framed the choices that his community should have been considering.

        I’ll admit I’m a bit slow, but it sure seems that if the County Board is deciding between live music or no live music, then the choices he presented shouldn’t have been live music or no beer garden. I wonder how the voting would have gone if his neighbors were given the choice of voting for continuation of the beer garden without live music. At this point, I guess we’ll never know.

        One thing I do know is that if I was on the County Board, I sure would appreciate knowing all the facts behind this situation. Cause it’s interesting, to say the least.

        Looking forward to hearing from you,

        John Fontain

        • the native

          John, no one expects a serious or even relevant response from you. Alan Howze
          President, Highland Park – Overlee Knolls Civic Association, as an elected official has credibility. Your attacks on Alan are un-warranted, you are a contrarian whose views are always extreme. You want to know if the people that live closer to the ‘Beer Garden’ have more weight in their opinions then others? Yes, as I think has been addressed in the Westover Markets responses, and the Civic Association’s meetings, they do. And they have been incorporated into a Community response. Isn’t that what Civic Organizations are for? I hope that the Board listens to what their community organizations are saying. They don’t always, but they should here. Were you at any of those meetings? Alan was. And what is community activism if not talking with your neighbors on and off line, over fences through car windows? Your implied back room dealing is petty and unnecessary. If you have an opinion state it and back it up with facts as others have. I hope that level minds of community officials like the views of the civic associations officials prevail.

    • John Fontain

      So out of the four chief cheerleaders for live music, only one agreed – and reticently so – that they would be willing to have this near their own house. That speaks volumes.

  • John

    I say reinvent the space as a tea garden and serve premium loose leaf tea and small sandwiches. Maybe provide low-key, acoustic entertainment.

  • Deb

    OK…BREATHE…….
    I happen to frequent the beer garden for the community aspect..not the beer…or food..but just to talk with my fellow Westover folks…Community is important…

    I would trade that immediate neighborhood to mine…next to I66 and METRO…ever hear contruction traffic OVER NIGHT-TIME hours? I would suggest that EVERYONE BREATHE……..

    take a time out…….BREATHE….

    and be thankful for what we have……The Westover area is a garden to be treasured…by ALL. Personally I find the increased traffic of the library A TRUE TRIP…but I do not complain..WE SHOULD all try to get along…and not run over little children in the street……just BREATHE….take a break……..you think noise is a problem? Maybe you should work and get a real life!…I66 and METRO are FAR WORSE neigbors than the beer garden….4 in the morning! 3 in the morning…2 in the morning….trust me day in day out…I would trade to be next to the beer garden and not to I66 and METRO!. As neighbors…they really SUCK! And the County board and the COUNTY BOARD STAFF love them! Who are the folks on the COUNTY BOARD STAFF anyway? Do they live in this area or some place else…like FAIRFAX? We should ask them!

    • Jim Hurysz Sock Puppet

      EXHALE

      • fredterp

        FREDTERP

  • Suburban Not Urban

    So I have a very simple question – for each of the Civic associations mentioned above(Tara might be NA since it’s not clear there was a vote) – When was the intention of voting on this announced to the neighborhood?

    • KArlington

      We got notice about a week ahead through the Westover newsletter, which is about typical for any meeting they have. As ridiculous as this whole thing is, it’s been given fair process time by the civic associations.

      I definitely feel bad for the people who live immediately next to the market – their very personal, very immediate concern about this whole thing is overridden by a puzzlingly overwhelming majority who can’t just have happy hour in their own yard. It’s concerning that the civic associations aren’t thinking more about advocating for these residents – albeit a small group – whose interests are being completely dismissed.

      • Arlington, Northside

        Are you saying that the community should not have a central gathering place for Happy Hours, and instead should just further insulate ourselves by staying at home to drink alone? Sorry, but I will take the community gathering place. It has to be quiter than last night’s I-66/Silver Line construction was two blocks away at 2am.

        • Tone Ten

          What a bizarre conclusion to draw from what KArlington said, but in truth it’s rather telling. You want a “community” place, yet you equate “in their own yard” with “alone”, as though the idea of a backyard gathering is completely unheard of.

          What, do you only trust your neighbors just enough to meet them on neutral ground, over $9 beers and the racket of a mediocre cover band?

        • KArlington

          Not suggesting people should isolate themselves, but that it’s among many options. The Lost Dog and Stray Cat are across the street; a couple of cafes are on the same block. Many other options exist within a mile at the Lee-Harrison Center. I can only assume that before the market made their changes, people frequented other businesses or had backyard/livingroom gatherings and everyone was fine and dandy. And it’s not like the market crowd doesn’t see each other at all of the school-related activities going on.

          The noise of Metro construction has nothing to do with the question of community social centers, but it’s one reason we moved away from a house right up against the I-66 wall, so I sympathize with your unhappiness with it.

  • Mark

    It looks like the County Board is leaning toward approving a live music permit BUT with the condition that there would be no amplification in July and August. The county would then amend the permit to allow amplified music one day a week — either Friday or Saturday — in September and October. After this four-month “pilot” period, county staff would gauge neighborhood opinion to determine if they should allow the permit to continue in 2012, with or without amplification.

    Mary “Unplugged” Hynes was the county board member who made this proposal. She said the county needed to move very carefully in allowing live music in a commercial area adjacent to a residential area, given that it could lead to other people applying for live music permits in other Arlington neighborhoods similar to Arlington.

    Hynes was joined by Zimmerman, Tejada and Favola in voting to support a proposal to have the county staff try to develop a set of conditions — that likely will incorporate the acoustic-only two-month trial period — that could be voted on by the County Board at its Tuesday meeting.

    Jay Fisette appeared to support the playing of amplified music at the Beer Garden and was the lone county board member who voted against Hynes’ motion. He does not favor waiting to allow amplified music.

    Walter Tejada was wishy-washy and all over the place in his comments. He said the board should probably wait another month before it makes a decision on the live music permit, although he seemed to backtrack from that position toward the end of the meeting.

    It’ll be interesting to see the proposed conditions that the county staff presents to the board for its Tuesday meeting. I had always assumed that non-amplification was a non-starter for Devin and the Beer Garden. But maybe he will agree to the two-month acoustic-only period when he and his attorney meets with county staff before Tuesday’s meeting.

    My prediction: County Board will vote 4-1 on Tuesday in favor of Hynes’ proposal, with Fisette dissenting because he favors more flexible permit language that, for example, allows amplified music as soon as the permit takes effect.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Seems like a GREAT plan and a rare sign of understanding the community on the part of the County Board. My ONLY wonder is why they will wait until the noise absorbing leaves on the trees will begin to fall before allowing amplified music.

    • Sue

      I was at the meeting and I agree with Mark’s summary of what took place. In four hours of discussion, Jay Fisette was the only board member able to concisely communicate his position (which was in support of the WGB permit application). The rest are supportive of some form of live entertainment at the Beer Garden with different conditions but were all over the place with their comments (being a geek I have over 20 pages of notes). The Mary Hynes “unplugged” alternative seems cumbersome and expensive because it requires yet another evaluation in a few months, and is really impractical because, as one attendee pointed out, the board required amplification (microphones) in order to hear each other. I felt like she and Walter Tejada were looking for political cover since they are up for reelection.

      It was not necessarily a bad outcome for the Beer Garden, but as a taxpayer, it really made my head hurt. The discussion lasted over 4 hours, and while there seemed to be somewhat of a consensus, no decision was reached. We pay for all this deliberation, and could do much better. I’m grateful for Jay Fisette’s clarity and brevity. I’m not sure I could last through many more board meetings, though.

      • PhilL

        I agree, all that circuitous rambling on they were doing made me want to pour superglue in my ears.

        I do think they eventually had some good points, after they ran out of steam from thinking too hard. But as others have said I do think one basic point never got noticed or nobody seemed to really think it through, and that is that you do not need amplification in that space at all, unless your desire is to project sound beyond the beer garden space. It’s perfectly small enough for acoustic only, and I think that is the best compromise.

        • Sue

          I don’t think you need amplification to make the overall music louder, but, as pointed out below, you may need it to hear vocals or particular instruments. I hate to see the rules become too complicated but I definitely agree that an objective measure, like a decibel limit, needs to be included to adequately protect everyone’s interests. I am grateful that the Board was unanimous in rejecting the staff’s recommendation.

    • Me

      What is the reason for no ampliciation in July and August and not other months? It seems most people have windows closed during those two months for AC and open in the other months.

  • 4Arl

    KArlington raises a good point about the voting process. If the vote will affect local government decisions, it should be conducted by a fair process. Otherwise whoever controls the details, controls the outcome. Clean, and fair in spirit, elections and voting should be everyone’s right.

  • Westoverite

    I belong to the Westover civic association…attended the meetings and strongly support the permit for the Beer Garden…only a couple of residents oppose any permit for the Westover Market among those that participated.

  • Hunkles

    If you live behind the garden and the sound bothers you, then stick speakers in the windows and blast obnoxious sounds at the garden.

    Or some classic Richard Pryor.

  • Brock

    Just making the point that there is no way amplification is necessary at the beer garden. I’ve been there. It’s tiny. An acoustic guitar would be just enough to create some ambience without being so loud as to affect nearby neighbors. I think it’s the perfect compromise.

    And I’m baffled as to why anyone would even want something louder than that. The nice thing about the beer garden is that you can hear your own conversations.

    • Clarendon

      I agree, although not sure the amplification issue is a matter of needing to be “louder”. You can be very loud with an acoustic guitar, acoustic or stand-up bass, drums, all without amps. However, it is difficult to have a keyboard for example because pianos are difficult to move around. Some quiet-types also benefit from a mic for vocals even with an acoustic guitar. Now, if you are RL Burnside, you don’t need much 🙂

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjGf4AkgM4Q

    • MM

      I totally agree with the above.

      The problem always was and will be about controlling volume, and having someone to control the volume that isn’t in the band.
      Rookie bands play way to loud because no one ever told them to turn down! Same deal at any club anywhere where they have noisy bands playing on off nights. Keep the volume low and keep the music and beer flowing!

  • nigel tufnel

    This one goes to 11!

  • Moreno

    Greetings etc.

  • William H. Ulbricht

    Here

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