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Council OKs modest music permit expansion for South Congress pizza diner

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

South Congress Avenue’s Home Slice Pizza successfully held on to its outdoor music venue permit at City Council, despite an appeal by neighborhood opponents about high noise levels.

 

Last Thursday, supporters of the restaurant, including a person dancing in a slice-of-pizza costume, came to City Hall to fight for the permit, which will allow six music performances each year.

 

Members of South River City Citizens neighborhood group filed the appeal.

 

Under the city’s noise and amplified sound ordinance, Planning and Development Review Director Greg Guernsey may not deny the application for a outdoor music permit for a music venue that is located within the footprint of a restaurant use. 

 

The code does allow Guernsey to impose conditions on the permit, a power he exercised liberally in an attempt to satisfy neighbors who worried about the restaurant becoming a music venue in such close proximity to residences.

 

The permit limits outdoor music to 70 decibels, with cut-off times of 8pm Sunday through Thursday and 10pm on Friday and Saturday. Neighbors also will have access to the cell phone number of the person responsible for monitoring sound.

 

Home Slice has also agreed to construct an eight-foot sound fence on he north and east sides of the property, a sound barrier that will be reviewed by the music office.

 

Most notably, Home Slice can only have six live band performances on the rear patio per year, just four more than are currently allowed.

 

Council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo argued for a postponement to allow time for further compromise and discussion, but were unsuccessful in that push. City Council voted 4-2 to deny the appeal, with Morrison and Tovo voting against and Council Member Bill Spelman off the dais.

 

“I think there has been tremendous compromise,” said Council Member Mike Martinez. “They are willing to continue to work on it.”

 

“It’s not like they are asking to play music every night or every Saturday,” said Martinez. “They are asking for four more (days) than what currently exists. Four. Out of 365 days.”

 

Martinez added that the sound levels on bustling Congress Avenue are loud even without considering any live music. “I understand that there are concerns, but right now you can sit in front of that exact same house that is in front of Home Slice without any music playing and it’s 120 decibels, because it’s Congress Avenue,” Martinez said.

 

Connie Todd, who said her family have owned the house next door to Home Slice on Congress Avenue for 109 years, worried about the increased noise in her backyard, which she uses as a quiet retreat from the bustling commercial street. Todd said noise pollution from music venues was increasing in the area, and was impossible to escape or effectively buffer.

 

Marc Davis, vice president of the South River City Citizens, also opposed the music permit.

 

“We do not hate outdoor music, we do not hate music, we do not hate pizza,” said Davis. “The reason for the appeal request is because Home Slice’s location, and in particular, the location of their outdoor stage, makes it absolutely absurd for them to have any sort of regular outdoor music.”

 

Davis said that they would agree to allow Home Slice to continue their two large annual events – a South by Southwest party and a carnival – both of which are charity fundraisers. However, they remained opposed to the four other events that could take place under the proposed terms of the permit.

 

“We’ve listened to fantastic stories about donations to charities and wonderful events for families and things like that but there’s nothing to be against there. What we’re against is the idea that Home Slice could become a regular outdoor music venue,” said Davis.

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