Published Date Written by Michael KitchLACONIA — "It's been a long road," Jay Santagate told the Planning Board, which last night unanimously approved his request to convert the upper floor of the Tower Hill Tavern at Weirs Beach to a live music venue after a number of public hearings and several rounds of sound tests over the the last 18 months.
Santagate met stiff resistance from his neighbors, particularly Robert and Michael Ames, owners of the Half Moon Motel and Cottages, and Joe Driscoll, owner of the Cozy Inn and Lakeview House, who claimed that the sound of late night music would disturb the sleep of their guests.
In letter delivered to the board last night, Driscoll said entertainment downstairs at the Tower Hill Tavern has already taken a toll on his business, prompting guests to check out and demand refunds.
Michael Ames reminded the board that other bars offered live music without disturbing their neighbors and asked "if they can do it, why can't these guys?" Denying charges of seeking to stifle business, his brother Robert remarked "we don't care if they're juggling chainsaws in there as long as we can't hear them."
Countering, Michael Foote of Rollercoaster Road referred to the bells and whistles coming from the arcade on Lakeside Ave., which is owned by the Ames brothers and suggested "maybe we should shut the arches at nine o'clock so people could get to sleep even sooner." Noise and music, he said are "the sounds of The Weirs trying to make money while we hear coughing, wheezing and snoring from the sleep establishment."
Both Santagate and the Ames hired sound engineers and when they submitted conflicting reports the Planning Board commissioned Eric Reuter of Reuter Associates, LLC of Portsmouth, an acoustic and noise consultant, to prepare a third party review. Using what he described as "conservative assumptions," he said that with the building insulated and the doors and windows shut that the sound escaping the building would be muffled, not excessive." He calculated the level would reach 53 decibels, equivalent to a civil conversation, at the nearest cottage.
Attorney Regina Nadeau, representing the Ames brothers, urged the board to limit the sound inside the building to less than 90 decibels and outside the building to less than 45 decibels between 10 and 11 p.m. as well as to stipulate that the sound not be "clearly audible at 50 feet from the property line. She stressed that "we're challenging what happens after 9 p.m. on weeknights and after 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
In approving the application the board specified that the upper floor be properly insulated and the doors and windows shut during performances. In addition, bands would play only until 11 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day and until 10 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day and, following Nadeau's proposal, no sound would be clearly audible 50 feet from the property line.