In the first community meeting dedicated to discussing helicopter operations and noise in Arlington, residents found their concerns stuck between federal air traffic regulations and required military practices throughout the metro area.
Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey hosted the meeting last Wednesday night as part of an ongoing effort to hear and address resident concerns about noise pollution, specifically near Reagan National Airport.
The meeting’s panel included representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and the military, including the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
“It’s definitely our intent to fly friendly and to support the local community as much as possible,” Colonel Timothy Brown said at the meeting. Brown is a Commander in the U.S. Army Air Operations Group.
“This is a great feedback opportunity for us to take lessons and really work on training and communicating with our pilots so that everyone is able to support this goal as much as we can within the restraints of the airspace that we’re operating in,” he added.
However, as residents and representatives from neighborhoods closest to the airport shared their concerns, a disconnect between FAA regulations and military operations became clear, making it difficult for the selected panel to properly address questions.
“We monitor and grant approval in and out of the airspace, but we take care of civil aircraft in that area,” said Rebecca Cointin of the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy. “I want to make it clear that we do not have a lot of regulation over noise produced by military aircraft. The FAA does not control, certify or regulate them.”
According to the panelists, 75 percent of the air traffic in the area is military, and the remaining 25 percent is law enforcement, medical evacuations and the civil aircraft Cointin referred to.
What the FAA does regulate is safe areas in which military aircraft can operate so as to not come into conflict with the civilian aircraft. The military has determined routes in the approved airspace for helicopters flying in and out of Reagan National, including along Route 7 and Route 1.
“We fly the route structure we do because it’s the safest way to fly in that airspace,” the Marine Corps Commander said, using a road analogy to explain why military aircraft tend to fly on either side of corridors like I-395 rather than directly above it. “When we’re flying those routes, they’re like highways in the sky. Unfortunately, we don’t dictate them. We operate via the FAA. We’re just the operators trying to fly in the safest, most efficient manner.”
As the discussion continued, fingers pointed to the U.S. Department of Defense, which regulates military missions, training and how its aircraft operate. It also became apparent that while neither aircraft operators nor the FAA alone could change the flight routes, residents also didn’t have an outlet to share their concerns.
“What I’m looking for is a way for people to let you know when it’s really a problem,” Garvey said. “I’m guessing this might not exist right now, but it might be something we can work on.”
With that in mind, residents shared their ongoing frustrations with noise and accounts of excessive helicopter traffic.
Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey will be hosting a community meeting on helicopter operations and noise on Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 7-9 p.m. at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street).
She held a similar meeting over the summer to discuss noise from airplanes heading to and from Reagan National Airport. That meeting drew approximately 100 attendees, who heard from representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The group addressed questions and comments regarding flight paths, hours of operation, types of aircraft and regional coordination moving forward.
This month’s meeting agenda also includes two representatives from the FAA, one from its Air Traffic Organization and another from the Office of Environment and Energy. Another confirmed guest is a commander of the U.S. Army Air Operations Group, and the list is expected to grow.
“We had an overwhelming response to the general aviation community meeting I hosted in the summer and I would encourage all of you to attend this meeting as well,” Garvey wrote in an email to constituents who had expressed concern about aircraft noise. “This will provide an important opportunity for us to not only understand the nature of helicopter operations in the region but will allow us to ask questions and have our voices heard to grow.”
The meeting is part of a “regular series of occasional updates on this issue” to continue efforts put into effect since the first meeting.
One of these efforts is the establishment of a Reagan National Airport Community Working Group — per a MWAA recommendation — that has met twice to discuss options to reduce or mitigate noise concerns in the region, according to an e-mail sent from Garvey to community members. The Working Group is made up of two community representatives from Arlington County, five of the eight Wards in D.C., Alexandria, Dranesville and Mount Vernon.
The County has also created an airport noise website as a dedicated resource for community members to learn about the issue and get updates on meetings.
The Bracket Room (1210 N. Garfield St.) is revisiting its plan to bring live music — and some nearby residents are not happy.
The sports bar applied for a live entertainment permit to have up to two acoustic music players in the bar from 8 p.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday, according to the County Board agenda. County staff recommend that the permit be approved with a review in November.
Residents who live in the Lyon Place at Clarendon Center apartment building, which has rooms above the bar, and across the street at Station Square want the Board to deny the permit. Residents are claiming the additional live music will bring more guests and more noise, which is already a problem, neighbor Joe Morrell said.
Morrell lives in the Station Square building across the street, and while he does not hear noise from inside the bar, he says there are often swells of people outside the bar and there have been fights. Live entertainment will only add to the noise, he said.
Part of the problem is the bar’s location, Morrell said, which is “essentially located in a residential building.”
“It’s not like it’s something like Mad Rose [Tavern] or whatever else is in a commercial building or on its own,” he said.
Morrell plans to attend the board meeting on Saturday to speak out against the permit. He’s not the only one. Other residents at the Station Square will be speaking out, Station Square manager George Pace said.
Pace attributed most of the noise affecting Station Square to the alleged fights and the crowd that hangs outside of the bar. He predicts that live music will only make the already crowded bar more popular.
“It’s always packed,” he said.
The County has also received concerns from Lyon Place residents who live above the bar.
“As of the date of this report, staff has received several comments from residents of the apartment building who are concerned that there will be additional noise impacts caused by the proposed live entertainment. To address those concerns, the applicant has agreed to a condition limiting the proposed live entertainment to two (2) acoustical performers,” according to the agenda report.
According the report, The Bracket Room is aware of the concerns and agreed to making changes in order to reduce noise. Changes including limited performers to only two people and closing the doors and windows when there is live music.
The bar applied for a live entertainment permit in 2013 but withdrew after residents spoke out against it. At the time of the bar’s opening in 2013, the County received multiple noise complaints. However, they have only received one since March 2014, according to the staff report.
(ARLnow.com reached out twice to Jeff Greenberg, co-owner of The Bracket Room, but he did not respond.)
While staff recommended approving the permit, Pace said he does not believe the Board will allow live entertainment at The Bracket Room.
“I don’t think it’s going through again. I doubt it. I don’t know why the Board would change their minds after a year,” Pace said.
Residents have said that such noise is affecting their quality of life.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Metro Washington Airports Authority, in partnership with Arlington County, are hosting a community meeting in the County Boardroom at Courthouse Plaza (2100 Clarendon Blvd, Room 307).
The meeting will run from 7-9 p.m., and is designed to “allow Arlington County residents to voice their concerns to the FAA and MWAA, as well as hear possible solutions from FAA and MWAA.”
This is not the first time residents have raised the issue of noise pollution; in 2011 late night runway renovation prompted numerous noise complaints from residents in homes along DCA flight paths.
In July of that year the MWAA hired the ITT Corporation to monitor noise in the communities near the airport in response to numerous complaints.
All who are impacted by the aircraft noise are encouraged to attend the meeting.
Photo courtesy Alex
Sehkraft Beer Garden and Haus, which is planning on opening next spring in the ground floor of 925 N. Garfield Street, was approved for live entertainment at the Board’s Tuesday meeting. However, its request to keep its doors and windows open during live entertainment — while supported by the community — was denied unanimously.
The Westover Beer Garden and its owner, Devin Hicks, had a long, contentious battle with the county a few years ago over Hicks’ desire to have amplified music in its outdoor space. Since 2012, Hicks’ and the county’s relationship has improved — County Board members John Vihstadt and Walter Tejada said they are now proud customers of the restaurant — but the memories of the permit fight were still on some of their minds.
“There were some issues early on, and I don’t want to gloss over some of the history or the occasional problem now,” Vihstadt said, but added, “I think the beer garden is a huge community asset. It really is the embodiment of what makes Westover great.”
The difference between Westover and Sehkraft, county staff pointed out, is the new brewpub is in the ground floor of an apartment building and has residential developments nearby. Westover Beer Garden is in a business district and is 110 feet from the nearest single family dwelling.
However, the Lyon Park Civic Association supported Sehkraft’s request to keep the windows open so those in outdoor seating could hear the music. William B. Lawson, a real estate lawyer representing Hicks, told the County Board the request was intended to be a trial period.
“We think that an exception is appropriate,” he said. “Devin has put a lot of money into soundproofing and construction techniques that we think will lessen the impacts of the music. If there are any problems we’ll shut the doors.”
Although the Board denied the exception — agreeing with county staff that allowing it “would be inconsistent with current practice” — Board member Libby Garvey recommended Hicks come back in a year when the permit is up for renewal and suggest opening the doors and windows at that time.
“I think we should sort of ease into it a little bit,” Garvey said. “We’re hearing so much from folks in complaints [about noise’ that I think it would be better to ease into it.”
When he spoke to ARLnow.com in July, Hicks said he plans to open the beer garden and brewpub in March 2015.
The Arlington County Board approved an updated noise ordinance last month, amid concern from businesses that it’s too strict and complaints from residents that it’s not strict enough.
A new video from Arlington County (above) reviews why the noise ordinance was updated and what it means for Arlington residents and businesses.
As noted in the video, noise complaints in Arlington should be directed to county code enforcement (703-228-3232) during business hours and to the police non-emergency line (703-558-2222) after hours.
Effective immediately, restaurant managers will be liable for the noise of their patrons if it can be heard in a residence 100 feet or more away from midnight to 9:00 a.m in mixed-use areas, which the county outlines in maps of areas like Clarendon, Ballston, Pentagon City and Columbia Pike.
Anywhere in the county, from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. anyone who can be heard “yelling, wailing, shouting or screaming” can receive a ticket for $100 or more.
“It’s our goal to always do the best we can to balance and be respectful of the quality of life to everyone that’s here,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said during the Board’s almost five-hour discussion of the ordinance at its Saturday meeting. “This is another set of tools, in my mind, that helps us to address the not widespread — but they do exist — impacts of noise.”
Residents of condominiums in Ballston and other of Arlington’s urban neighborhoods were calling for more restrictive rules, including setting quiet hours beginning at 11:00 p.m. nightly and from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. A committee of residents from the Alta Vista and Berkeley Condominiums in Ballston — both within steps of A-Town Bar & Grill — unsuccessfully proposed those stricter rules to the Board.
“[Responsible businesses] have nothing to fear from a strong noise control ordinance,” said Lee Austin, a member of the ad hoc condo committee. “Nor do we want to prevent young people from having a good time. But is it too much to ask they be respectful of residents in the neighborhood late at night and on Sunday afternoon? What we solicit protection from is the crowd noise that comes from irresponsible establishments that serve too much alcohol to too many people too long after they’ve had too much to drink.”
Clarendon and Courthouse residents sent a flurry of emails last week requesting similar restrictions, with former president of the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association Chris Keever telling the County Board that the ordinance appears “to have been drafted directly by bar owners who are not even trying to pretend they care about being good neighbors.”
Whitlow’s on Wilson owner Greg Cahill was the first of 17 speakers who addressed the Board about the ordinance on Saturday. He did not advocate for a specific enforcement time, but instead implored the Board to consider the business community as well as the residents when adopting the new regulations.
“We’re a little concerned it could be detrimental to our business,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t get busy until 11 or 12 at night. It could affect our business. It’s going to be hard for us to be responsible for actions people [take] when they’re waiting to get into our bar and restaurant.”
In addition to provisions dealing with mixed-use districts, the new ordinance makes it illegal for anybody or any group of people “to engage during the nighttime in yelling, wailing, shouting or screaming” in a residential neighborhood, if the noise can be heard within 20 feet inside an adjacent home or within 50 feet across a road or property boundary.
The ordinance adopted was revised from the version discussed last month that rankled Arlington’s private swim clubs. Those clubs are now exempted from the residential noise ordinance, provided that their meets that take place between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
The county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development’s Code Enforcement personnel will pair with the Arlington County Police Department in enforcing the new rules. The new ordinance was written after a 2009 Virginia Supreme Court decision changed the way localities could enforce noise violations. The ordinance now establishes “Objective, quantifiable and defined measurement standards,” according to Arlington County’s press release.
Fisette called the ordinance a “work in progress” and said county staff should bring back any recommended changes at the ordinance’s one-year review. Fisette also made several references to “one establishment in Ballston” that “continues to cause problems for residents,” and said the Board will address that restaurant — understood to be A-Town — when its use permit comes before the Board for review.
The email listserv of the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association (CCCA) erupted today in protest over changes to Arlington’s noise ordinance, which the County Board is scheduled to vote on tomorrow (Saturday).
The changes are needed in order to allow police to objectively enforce the noise ordinance; the current ordinance contains subjective enforcement provisions that were struck down by the state Supreme Court. The ordinance attempts to address what county officials say are the top four noise-related complaints in Arlington: loud parties or gatherings, construction noise, animal noises and live entertainment venues.
Business advocates have said that an overly-restrictive noise ordinance could chase away younger residents and discourage local economic development. The new ordinance, county staff says, attempts to find a balance between resident concerns and business needs.
CCCA leaders, however, say that the provisions don’t adequately protect residents in the county’s urban corridors — so-called “mixed use districts” — against noise from parties and outdoor restaurant patios. While for residential neighborhoods the ordinance outlaws “yelling, wailing, shouting or screaming” that’s audible anywhere within 50 feet of the noise source after 9:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m. on weekends), for mixed use districts the noise must be audible indoors, from 100 feet away, after midnight.
“Clarendon is a vibrant mixed use and walkable community and as a neighborhood we generally expect a certain amount of noise related to the restaurants and traffic after those hours,” CCCA President Adam Thocher told ARLnow.com. “However the idea that continued smart growth of our neighborhood is dependent on little to no protection from noise 24/7 is incredible… The CCCA regularly receives feedback on how increasingly loud the outdoor patio space at neighboring restaurants is becoming.”
Even so, Thocher said he was particularly concerned about noise from “keg parties,” which are subject to the same standards as restaurants.
“The idea that the noise from a neighbor’s raucous parties are held to the same noise standards as the restaurant patio is unacceptable even in a mixed use area,” he said.
A former CCCA president, Chris Keever, also weighed in on the issue today, writing the County Board a letter that accused the county of appeasing restaurant owners at the expense of residents of Arlington’s Metro corridors.
“This proposal would leave an overwhelming number of residents of this neighborhood with zero recourse to enforce quiet enjoyment of their own properties,” Keever wrote. “It appears to me to have been drafted directly by bar owners who are not even trying to pretend they care about being good neighbors. It is the right of business owners to make a profit, but not for them to make outrageous profit at the expense of the majority. This is Arlington, not Wall Street.”
The full letters from Thocher and Keever, after the jump.
As the Arlington County Board moves forward on an update to its noise ordinance, owners of high-rise condominiums in Ballston, members of private swimming clubs and economic development boosters are all upset with some of county staff’s recommendations.
Staff consulted an ad hoc committee of condo owners in Ballston who want police to issue citations whenever they can hear noise in their apartments that originates from at least 50 feet away. The condo owners want the enforcement period to start at 10:00 p.m. on weeknights, 11:00 p.m. on weekends and from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays.
In voting to advertise changes to the noise ordinance on Tuesday night, the County Board gave itself the flexibility to decide whether to make the minimum distance 50, 100 or 200 feet, and to decide when the noise ordinance should be enforced.
Judson McIntire spoke for a more restrictive ordinance. He bought a condominium two years ago on the second floor of the Berkeley Condominiums, at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Randolph Street, which is directly across the street from A-Town Bar & Grill.
“Staff has recommended that protections start at midnight,” said McIntire, who insisted that he moved to Ballston for its “vibrant mixed use” and said he loves living in the neighborhood. “We believe this is too lenient and urge the board to accept stricter enforcement times. Many Arlington residents go to bed before midnight and they expect and deserve an uninterrupted night’s sleep.”
Business owners and economic development advocates worry that provisions in the noise ordinance that prohibit “yelling, wailing, shouting, or screaming” at night in Arlington’s mixed-use corridors, including areas near Metro stations, are overly restrictive. They’re also concerned about provisions that could hold business owners and managers personally responsible for such noise coming from their patrons when they’re outside on patios or rooftop bars.
Sally Duran, a member of the Arlington Economic Commission, countered the condo owners, saying the Board should discuss any noise ordinance changes with the business community, which pays half of all taxes in Arlington, and millennials — generally, those 25-34 years of age.
“These millennials, which make up 45 percent of our population, are the ones who are living and working in Arlington and they are the driving force of businesses’ desire to be located here,” Duran said. “Obviously that’s a blessing, but it’s also creating a little bit of noise… The county needs to holistically study the issues associated with the lively, energetic and sometimes messy environment created by the nightlife uses in urban and mixed-use environments.”
The Board hasn’t given any indication on which direction it prefers. It is advertising the noise ordinance for various enforcement times, to be as broad as possible. It can vote on later hours when it holds its public hearing and likely adopts the noise ordinance at its meeting next month.
One other sticking point among the public was proposed noise restrictions on private swimming clubs, which are located in residential neighborhoods and which hold swim meets during the warmer weather months. Swim club representatives have expressed concern that the new ordinance would make it illegal for fans to cheer on swimmers and divers, particularly on weekend mornings.
Staff recommended these clubs hold no more than 10 meets a year, submit an annual noise management plan and ensure “measures are in place to limit the extent to which noise sources used in the conduct of athletic contests and other activities are audible on properties at least 200 feet from the noise source. ”
“Swim and dive meets have been held at all these community pools for more than 50 years without an issue ever arising,” said Lander Allin, who lives in the Arlington Forest neighborhood. “The ordinance as proposed is so restrictive and burdensome that it puts us at risk of civil and criminal penalties for staging athletic events for our children. It would require us to take very expensive steps to fix a problem that does not exist.”
The Board is expected to vote on a final version of the revised noise ordinance as soon as next month.
Noise Ordinance Approval Delayed — The Arlington County Board decided to delay approval of an update to the county’s noise ordinance after hearing concern from swim clubs that the ordinance could make cheering at swim meets illegal and punishable by fines or jail time. County staff will now try to craft an exemption for the summer swim leagues. In addition to strengthening prohibitions on loud TVs and music, the noise ordinance update calls for a “quiet period” in single-family home neighborhoods that would impact morning swim meets. [InsideNoVa]
Chatman Addresses Fraud Conviction — Fresh off the announcement that Oprah Winfrey would headline her upcoming fundraiser in Arlington, congressional candidate Lavern Chatman is trying to downplay word that she was found liable for $1.4 million in damages in a decade-old fraud case involving a D.C. nursing home operator. Chatman called the case a “nightmare” and said she “didn’t pay much attention to the details” when she agreed to provide a loan to a “trusted friend” — a friend who ended up withholding the wages of nearly 300 employees of the nursing home company. [Blue Virginia]
Arlington Honors ‘Women of Vision’ — Arlington County’s Commission on the Status of Women has announced the winners of the 2014 Arlington County Women of Vision awards. They are political strategist and Young Democrats of America president Atima Omara, Dominion regional manager Deborah Tompkins Johnson and Bowen McCauley Dance founder Lucy Bowen McCauley. [Arlington County]
Chamber Honors Hospitality Workers — On Tuesday the Arlington Chamber of Commerce honored more than 80 “frontline” hospitality workers at its 10th annual Hospitality Awards. One winner was Gadisa Bulla, who rescued a co-worker’s son from a fire across from the Sheraton hotel on Columbia Pike. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Rosslyn Company Scores Angel Investment — Encore Alert, a Rosslyn-based social analytics startup, has raised a $390,000 seed round from the local investment group NextGen Angels. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Keithhall
Board to Consider $6.6 Million Homeless Shelter Contract — County staff is recommending that the Arlington County Board approve a $6.6 million contract for construction of the new year-round homeless shelter in Courthouse. The contract includes a $1.1 million construction contingency to cover overages. The contract is “within budget,” a county spokeswoman said. The new Homeless Services Center will include 50 year-round beds, 5 medical respite beds and an additional 25 beds for winter months. [Arlington County]
Hike in ART, STAR Fees Proposed — Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan has proposed a hike in fees for the county’s ART and STAR transportation systems. The base fare for ART buses would increase from $1.50 to $1.75 under Donnellan’s proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Ebbin Reflects on Va. Marriage Ruling — State Sen. Adam Ebbin, the first and only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, had mixed emotions after last week’s ruling that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. “I always thought if you were gay, you could never get married, you’d never be able to have children,” he told the Washington Post. “I didn’t know you could be gay and be happy.” [Washington Post]
Belly Dancing in Shirlington — Aladdin’s Eatery (4044 Campbell Avenue) in Shirlington will be hosting regular belly dancing shows, starting on Thursday. The shows will be performed by faculty from Saffron Dance, which is based in Virginia Square. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Noise Complaint Targets Church — Even God is not safe from noise complaints in Arlington. Police were called to the 2400 block of Shirlington Road in Nauck on Monday night for “a loud church service in the area.” No word on whether officers found an actual violation of the county’s noise ordinance.
Flickr pool photo by Robpc
The Arlington County Board will review the draft noise ordinance at its March meeting.
Among the updates to the ordinance are prohibiting anyone from playing music or TVs loud enough to be heard by a neighbor as close as 20 feet away in an apartment building or 50 feet away across a property line. From the draft:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to use, operate, or play, or to permit the use, operation or playing of, any radio, television, phonograph, record, compact disc or tape player, drum, musical instrument, loudspeaker, sound amplifier or similar device or machine which produces, reproduces or amplifies sound in such a manner as to
create a noise disturbancebe heard within any nearbydwelling unit, house or apartment of another person at least 20 feet from the source of the sound, or at least 50 feet from the source of the sound and either across any real property boundary or at the curb or on the edge of the pavement at any built street.”
The minimum penalty for a noise disturbance violation is proposed to increase from $25 to $100, with a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to 30 days in jail. According to the ordinance, each calendar day a violation is reported or ongoing is a separate offense. All ordinance violations require a warning before a citation can be issued, according to Arlington County Code Enforcement Section Chief Gary Greene.
“Our thinking here is that if you have your TV or stereo or amplifying device so loud that it can be heard a whole room away, clearly and audibly, that would be a disturbance enough for another person that it would be a violation,” Greene said in an email.
The new ordinance was updated partially to allow some violations to be enforced without needing sound-measuring devices — presumably the reason the words “create a noise disturbance” were edited from the above provision. The draft ordinance also forbids motorized lawnmowers and leaf blowers be used after dark and prohibits “yelling, wailing, shouting, or screaming above the level of conversation” in a residential district.
Planning staff said the updated ordinance was written after a yearlong community outreach process. One of the key points to come from the process was regulations on animal noise. In the new draft, a noise ordinance violation occurs when a neighbor hears an animal at least once a minute for 10 consecutive minutes.
All county facilities, employees and contractors with the county, including trash, recycling and leaf collectors, are exempted completely from the proposed ordinance.
(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Neighbors of Ballston’s A-Town Bar & Grill (4100 Fairfax Drive) have convinced the Arlington County Board to force the night spot to close its outdoor bar early.
On Saturday, the Board approved new restrictions to the bar’s outdoor patio. Despite A-Town’s owner’s objections, the outdoor bar will no longer be able to serve alcohol directly to patrons after 10:00 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. All alcohol served on the patio will have to be delivered by a waiter to patrons at a table.
The change to the bar’s site plan was made after residents of nearby condominiums, in particular The Berkeley at Ballston (1000 N. Randolph Street), lobbied the Board with complaints that the bar was making too much noise and negatively impacting property values.
“Commercial businesses must understand that they are doing business where people live,” Berkeley Unit Owner’s Association President Roger Lindberg said in a letter to the Board. “Late night disturbances make it an unpleasant community experience and thus directly impact the value of all our homes. Late night outdoor partying even on weekends, is not a reasonable expectation of any homeowner.”
“In addition to the noise… A-Town has attracted a more rowdy group of patrons who hang out in our public garden area after closing, creating noise, tossing trash onto our property and frankly causing a security concern for the whole building,” Lindberg added.
In addition, the bar will install a theater-style curtain around the patio to further block out noise. Attorney Jon Kinney, speaking on behalf of A-Town’s owners at the meeting, said the closure of the outdoor bar should at least be held off until it can be determined if the curtain is effective enough.
“We think the curtains are going to work and be able to contain the noise,” Kinney said. “We worry if we close the bar and the serving area and and we put the curtains up, that we won’t be able to open back up and know what worked.”
Members of the Board said they believed the curtain would help and questioned whether to hold off on forcing A-Town to close its outdoor bar, but the motion passed unanimously.
“It’s been really hard for the neighbors,” Board member Libby Garvey said. “I’m not saying it’s anybody’s fault, but I think we just need to bring [the noise] down as much as possible.”
Lindberg called the site plan amendment, which also renews the site plan conditions that allow live music and dancing at A-Town, a “reasonable… middle ground for all interested parties.”
Staff will conduct a review of the changes in three months, and the site plan amendment will go before the board in June for renewal.
Bracket Room (1210 N. Garfield Street) in Clarendon had wanted to offer its patrons live music, but an outcry from neighbors prompted a change of plans.
Bracket Room’s owners had applied for a live entertainment permit, but decided within the past couple of weeks to withdraw the application. They made the decision based on noise complaints from neighbors living in Lyon Place apartments — located directly above the sports bar — who say the existing music is too loud.
“We’ve had a lot of issues with the tenants in the building from the beginning,” said Co-owner Jeff Greenberg. “The residents were calling the police when we first opened, which I hear really happens to everybody. But we don’t want to upset the people in the building or the landlord.”
One month after the sports bar’s early September opening, police said they had received around three dozen complaints related to Bracket Room. County Zoning and Code Enforcement staff had also received more than 15 complaints. Last month, County Planner Sophia Fisher said county employees were looking into the issues. Staff members familiar with each permit request typically make a recommendation to the County Board about whether to grant or deny the permit.
“Zoning and Code Enforcement staff are both currently monitoring the use due to concerns raised by citizens related to noise,” Fisher said in October. “Because live entertainment has the potential to increase the impacts of a venue on the surrounding community, citizen concerns related to noise are taken very seriously by staff.”
Today, Fisher confirmed that the Bracket Room owners have withdrawn their application for the live entertainment permit.
Bracket Room customers might notice some changes implemented during the past two weeks to appease neighbors. First, owners decided to lower the music level to 85 decibels.
“They’re trying to keep [the music] as low as they can so people inside are having fun but other people aren’t disturbed by the noise,” said Greenberg. “When the people in the building are mad at you, what are you going to do?”
The owners also examined the sports bar’s closing time and decided to shut the doors earlier.
“The 1:00-2:00 a.m. crowd is usually smaller than at other hours of the day, but it’s rowdier,” Greenberg said. “We’re cutting our hours back and we’re not staying open until 2:00 a.m.”
Since implementing the changes about two weeks ago, the owners have not been notified of as many noise complaints.
Other ideas the owners continue to throw around include adding additional security, working with an architect to find some other form of noise insulation, and possibly turning down the music’s bass if necessary.
“We’re going to contain the noise, but we’re going to try to keep our restaurant full every night,” said Greenberg. “We’re going to try the best we can. We want to get along, we want to be loved.”
In a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette last week, Arlington resident Karen Lamb said that construction noise has gotten worse in Arlington in recent years.
“I moved here in 1994, and it was relatively tranquil,” she wrote. “Now, there is new construction going on all over, trees are being leveled, hilltops razed and the sound of construction equipment is everywhere, with the incessant beeping of bulldozers backing up… no longer can I have breakfast or lunch in the gazebo, and forget sleeping past 7 a.m.”
The noise is “unbearable ” and the county has refused to do anything about it, Lamb continued.