Whether Canal Winchester city officials consider drafting a noise ordinance or taking legal action following complaints over loud music coming from a local brewery likely depends on a meeting involving all parties.
Mayor Mike Ebert hopes the owners of Loose Rail Brewing Co. at 37 W. Waterloo St. and nearby residents can work out their differences.
Supporters of Loose Rail were among the overflow crowd at Canal Winchester City Council's Oct. 16 meeting. Many who wanted to attend were barred from the meeting room because of capacity limitations and stood outside in the hallway.
"I think we all know that noise is pretty subjective," said Nathan Doerfler, one of the brewery's owners. "What one person might think is excessive, another person does not.
"Music, for us, is a necessity and we bring thousands of people a month to this community through our businesses. Needless to say, the complaints were kind of a surprise."
Doerfler, who also owns the nearby Harvest Moon Craft Kitchen, collaborated with others to open Loose Rail in May in an area zoned Old Town commercial, which permits commercial or residential uses.
Residents who live near the business have complained about noise to the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, which handles law enforcement duties for the city. Some say the bass reverberates through the walls of their homes.
West Mound Street resident Pat Burks told council members that neighborhood peace is important. He said he's been more concerned with the duration of the noise.
"If you're in your house and you have a dog next to you barking, if you just heard it a couple times, it's no big deal ... but if it barks for three hours straight, it gets to you," said Burks, who said he is a Harvest Moon patron. "This music, even if it might not be a certain decibel, if it still penetrates your house, and (it's) there constantly, it can be an aggravation."
But Leah Boughman, who lives directly across from Loose Rail, said she and her sister cannot hear the music. They have even invited city officials into their home to listen.
"On two occasions where the police were called ... you could not hear the music and our windows were open," Boughman said. "It seems like things have been blown out of proportion."
Doerfler has met with city officials multiple times and agreed to cut off performances at 10 p.m. and keep decibel levels below 100, he said. He said the sheriff is "stuck in the middle," trying to enforce a law that doesn't exist.
City laws currently on the books about noise refer to vehicles and mufflers. Canal Winchester does have a public nuisance zoning code that states, "noise or vibration shall be so controlled that at the property line, it will not be at a level above that normally perceptible from other development activities in the area or from the usual street traffic ... " but it does not specify a decibel level.
Mike Vasco, a member of the city's zoning and planning commission and Doerfler's attorney, said a meeting among all parties would avoid "extreme actions." He said most noise ordinances are "shot down" by the courts.
A noise ordinance would affect the entire city, including Canal Winchester High School, where music and crowds at football games can be heard by residents.
"Council is in the middle. It's an election year," Vasco said. "You guys are the politicians ... and everybody expects you to do something. This time, the smart thing may be to do nothing except encourage these parties to talk to each other."