Residents Raise Noise Concerns Over Outdoor Dining

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WEST HARTFORD — The third installment of a town plan and zoning commission public hearing on whether to allow outdoor dining in Bishops Corner went late into the night Monday, with commissioners spending more than an hour questioning a sound engineer hired by neighbors who are opposed to the proposal.

EDENS, the owner of the plaza that contains Marshall’s and Walmart Neighborhood Market, is requesting 35 seats outside of Noodles and Company and 60 seats outside of Blue Plate Kitchen, which is expected to open in the fall.

The public hearing started at the commission’s May 6 meeting and has been continued twice, most recently to allow time for the sound engineer, Bennett Brooks, to present his findings.

On Monday, one resident spoke in favor of the proposal and five spoke against it, expressing concerns about noise from Blue Plate Kitchen’s outdoor patio late at night.

“There is a time and place for late night al fresco dining and alcohol, but it is not in the backyard of a sleepy neighborhood that, up until a year ago, backed up to a mattress store and a medical office complex,” Blue Ridge Lane resident Chrystal Szeto wrote in a letter read by a neighbor.

Brooks, of Vernon-based Brooks Acoustics Corp., summarized a report he completed in early June. He said he took background sound measurements from the backyard of 72 Blue Ridge Lane at 7 p.m. on a Friday.

He found that background sound was about 47 weighted decibels at that time, and estimated it would drop to 42 dBA by 11 p.m., below the town ordinances that limit sound to 55 dBA between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and 45 dBA between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. He estimated the noise level of 60 male voices “in a bar setting” would measure about 60 dBA in the same backyard.

Robin Pearson, the attorney for EDENS, called Brooks’ report “speculative” and said the patio was not a bar area.

Senior Project Manager Keith Hague offered a list of conditions EDENS said it believes will appease the town and the neighbors, including that there would be no music — live or from speakers — on the patio, that it would close at 11 p.m. every night and that plaza security would be on duty for an hour after closing time.

Hague promised to do “sound compliance testing” on the second Saturday after the patio opens for the outdoor dining season. If sound exceeds limits, sound mitigation will be completed, he said. If after two retests the patio area still emits too much noise, the patio will close at 4 p.m. each day, he said.

Story by Julie Stagis, Hartford Courant

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