WILSON – It’s summertime and that means it’s warmer, busier and – some argue – noisier in the idyllic waterfront village of Wilson.
Proposed amendments to the local noise law would attempt to tamp down the volume – whether it’s a neighbor mowing the lawn at 7 a.m., an incessantly barking dog, or outdoor entertainment swinging into full gear at popular spots like the Wilson Boat House. It also would impose time limits for the first time, ending amplified music at 10 p.m. on weekends. The proposal runs four pages long.
Residents and business owners alike will have a chance to air their concerns when the Village Board holds a public hearing on the proposed amendments at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Wilson No. 1 Fire Hall, 250 Young St.
Mayor Bernard “Bernie” Leiker said he has been fielding complaints from some neighbors of the Boat House about the decibel levels, as well as the bands’ late hours, for the three years he’s been in office.
But Michelle “Shelly” Evans, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Dan, on leased property at 57 Harbor St., said they have “tried to compromise.” And she added that restrictions in the proposed revision “will not just affect me, but will affect the whole village.”
Leiker said, “I don’t want to shut the Wilson Boat House down. It’s important to have music there. We want their business. We need their business. But, if the music could be played less loudly, that would be ideal.”
Evans said she was part of a committee formed two years ago to address noise concerns.
“We agreed to cut our music back at that time to midnight on Saturdays – and there are no restrictions in place, so we could have gone to 2 a.m.,” she pointed out. “We’ve cut that back again now to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. We also put sound blankets in the gables over where the bands play, a sound barrier behind the drums, and we put the canvas sides down on the patio.
“We were trying to get along and make this work,” she said. “We thought we’d try this out and then the committee would reconvene, but it never did. This is so disheartening.”
Leiker agreed that the Evanses did make some concessions.
“We made a lot of headway, but things didn’t always work,” the mayor said. “I understand. It’s their business and they’re trying to make money. But it is hard for some residents – not all residents, because some like it and even have their own parties at their homes when bands are playing. But some are offended and annoyed.”
Escaping to the city
That would be a good description of Sam Salvo, a nearby neighbor who has lived in the village for 44 years – but not anymore. Ironically, he said he’s moving to the city – Niagara Falls – for peace and quiet.
“The Boat House was there when I moved down here and they had as many people as they do now on weekends, but the difference was that there was no music,” he recalled. “People would just eat and go.
“I’ve been on the lake in a boat two miles out and the music is as clear as a bell and that’s factual,” Salvo said. “The music needs to be lowered for the people who live around there. You used to be able to sleep with the windows open, but not anymore … That music blasting is like a concert all of the time. It’s currently relentless.”
Salvo said the trouble started about 15 years ago “and we’re not making any progress.”
“I don’t want to put anybody out of business – make as much money as you can – but not at my expense,” he added.
Mark Woodcock, co-owner of Woodcock Brothers Brewery at 638 Lake St., said his expansion plans for an entertainment venue at the site are on hold for the time being.
“I will not invest money in a community if it becomes a nursing home,” he said.
“The Boat House has been in business for years and is such an icon in this village,” he said. “I think it’s a horrible shame that a couple of individuals are causing such an upheaval. It’s not right and it’s not fair. You can’t take away someone’s right to make money.
“I think the majority of residents will come out and say that this (the Boat House) defines us,” he added. “This is a tourist town … I believe people will tell the elected officials this (proposed law) is not what they want. If I find out that this is the will of the community, we’ll leave, too.”
Paul Tynavsky sees it differently. He bought his home, which is within 100 feet of the Boat House, in 1999.
“I pay the highest taxes for lakefront property and I cannot open my windows,” he said.
“Sometimes, the glass in my windows vibrates from the music,” he added. “I cannot watch television without hearing the music. They absolutely don’t care about the time and after the music is over, it’s another two hours for people getting out of the parking lot before we finally have quiet … My wife, if it’s possible, has to stay with her family in the summer.
“Our kids and grandchildren used to come to our house but we cannot have them here in the summer anymore,” he said. “I know one neighbor with young children who has to leave every weekend. It’s a very unhealthy situation.”
Setting a limit
Leiker noted that the current noise law – short and toothless – contains no time constraints for amplified music. The proposed amendment puts limits in place on everything from lawn mowers to barking dogs to amplified music.
“This is not about dogs barking or lawn mowers or anything but the music,” said Marilyn Wilson, who owns the Wilson Village Laundrette, Gallery and Studio at 235 Young St. “We are trying to create a destination here … I want to see Wilson as a vibrant business community and a place to come. It’s a jewel. And I think the majority do not want this ordinance.
“This is the sound of summer,” she added. “It’s just three months of the year. Sit on your deck, make yourself a drink and enjoy the music. Close the windows if you don’t like it. The community cannot make laws to benefit just a few.”
Leiker said, “The only difference (regarding amplified music) with the new law would be that the Boat House would have to end an hour earlier – at 10 p.m. – on Fridays and Saturdays. And, we’re not saying they can’t start earlier in the day.”
The Boat House typically hosts live music outdoors from 8 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and from 7 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays, as well as 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays, late May through Labor Day weekend.
“That 10 p.m. (limit) would have an effect on my business,” said Evans, in her eighth season at the helm of the Boat House. “For me, it would be huge. I agreed to go to 11 p.m. this year and now they’re trying to go to 10 p.m. I’ve always tried to compromise, but a few people just want it their way. But I don’t think the majority of people want it this way.”
Ed Tabone leads two bands, Route 66 and Nerds Gone Wild, who have played the Boat House and the Evanses’ other venue, the Sunset Bar and Grill, located in the Town of Wilson.
“Shelly and Dan have done a great job working with the bands,” Tabone said. “They told us we have to respect the neighbors as much as we can, considering the venue, and to tone it down a little. I applaud them for taking steps to try to keep the sound from spilling out into the parking lot.
“Musicians can turn down the instruments and levels can be turned down at the sound board,” he said. “But I think some bands don’t respect that.
“I have been playing there probably 15 years and we used to play well past midnight,” he added. “Over the years, owners have taken it down from 12:30 p.m. to midnight and now to 11 p.m. If she goes to 10 p.m., it will hurt her business. People get out of work, get there, have something to eat and then things are just getting started. I think 11 p.m. is a fair ending time.”
Village Trustee Gary Darnell said he has not yet decided whether he would vote for the proposed noise law. He said he has talked to the Boat House property owner, Patrick Brady, who may have some ideas on how to better sound-proof the property.
“Do we need this law or should we be doing this face to face with people and working with them?” he asked.
“I went down to the Boat House parking lot Friday night and I did not think the band was that loud,” he said. “It’s all somebody’s perspective. But, if I had to listen to it four hours straight, I’d probably have a different perspective.
Action not imminent
“But we are struggling to keep businesses here 365 and when you have an advantage like the harbor, it’s time to find a balance, a common ground where we can work in harmony,” he said.
Village Trustee Michael McAvoy is more directly affected. He has been a neighbor to the Boat House for 40 years.
Citing the neighbor who has left Wilson to seek tranquility in the city, he said, “I find that more pathetic than ironic.
“As far as I know, we are the only municipality in Niagara County that does not have a noise law,” he said.
“There’s no reason that this can’t be settled amicably,” McAvoy said. “They can still have bands and apply for a later time limit, if people don’t complain. But when people have to move because of this – or leave the country for the summer because they can’t stand it here – then something has to be done … Let’s find a way to tone it down.”
The Boat House isn’t the only one to host live music. The annual Bike Night, which draws thousands of motorcycles to the village in August, features music, but concludes by 10 p.m. And, the Woodcock Brothers Brewery also occasionally hosts bands outside throughout the better weather months, Leiker noted.
“But they don’t play after 10 p.m. and they are mostly indoors,” he said.
“We also have the old (closed) Wilson House, which is up for sale,” Leiker said. “I had a call from someone in East Aurora who was interested in buying it and having roof-top bands play. Without a (more detailed) noise law, that would be allowed. This law would protect every citizen throughout our whole community, today and in the future.”
Leiker said the three-member board probably will not take action on the proposed law amendment immediately following the public hearing Wednesday. Under state law, it has 62 days to decide, he said.
Leiker said the board and village attorney studied noise laws in “every community in Niagara County” while compiling their new proposal, choosing many tenets that echo the law in the Village of Lewiston, another waterfront community with plenty of outdoor summer entertainment.
“We’re not going to make everyone happy,” Leiker said. “But we want something that would be reasonable for the community and would work. As a village board, we have to address everyone’s concerns.”
Evans said, “Wilson is a wonderful community, but too many businesses are shutting down. We won’t be bringing in businesses if we aren’t business-friendly. We’ve lost a pharmacy, a bank, the Wilson House and a coffee shop. We don’t want to lose any more businesses ... This is my business and it’s a hard thing.”