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The Noise About Grandview Heights

Article Published: Nov. 17, 2011 | Modified: Nov. 17, 2011
The Noise About Grandview Heights

Judy Humphrey’s bedroom window looks out over downtown Boone from her Grand Boulevard home, directly above the Boone Saloon. A view of the Kidd Brewer stadium grandstand and press box is framed by the upper right panes.

Photo by Jerry Sena

Week after week last summer, Judy Humphrey can recall, she would lay her head down to a crisp cool pillow, settle into her cozy, overstuffed four-poster bed, take in the cool Appalachian breezes through two large picture windows at her bedside, and, just to make a good night even better, adjust the foam rubber plugs in her ears.

“I would wake up all of a sudden right after 2 a.m. and yank them out,” she said Tuesday morning from a nook of her warm, brightly sunlit Grandview Heights home.

Two in the morning: Closing time.

Situated as it is in the highest corner of the structure’s three floors, Humphrey’s bedroom window looks over a verdant section of Boone’s downtown region, a vista stretching from Kidd Brewer’s towering grandstand and press box a mile or so in the southeast, to the Turchin Center on King Street a couple hundred feet below.

Less than a block up King Street from Turchin’s solemn galleries, however, the Boone Saloon serves up art of a significantly louder variety, and does so often until 2 a.m. if it happens to be a Friday or Saturday night.

The elevation of her bedroom window affords Humphrey a mostly unobstructed vantage point on the live rock concerts below, which occur about 121 nights per year, according to the saloon’s own estimation.

The ear plugs, Humphrey explained, were for the sake of compromise.

When ear plugs didn’t help, Humphrey called the police – repeatedly, she said – before repeatedly hearing the volume drop to an acceptable level in response to an officer’s pleas. Then she would fall off to sleep.

“I don’t enjoy doing this,” she said of the weekly phone calls to police. “I wish they would figure out how to take care of it without a call from me.”

She laughs now, because for now the calls have been unnecessary.

As a 30-year resident of the same Grand Boulevard address, Humphrey represents something of a backyard expert on the noises of downtown Boone. It’s been quieter lately, she noted, since the passage of an ordinance intended to restrain noise disturbances in the later hours.

The Boone Saloon has received more than twice as many warnings from law enforcement alleging their music was loud enough to disturb the general peace. On July 17, the popular college hangout was cited twice within two hours with noise violations, ringing up a $750 tab for its owners.

Town officials are still ironing out creases in the noise law, approved in July, that seem to be confusing both to the police enlisted to enforce it and the business establishments compelled to comply.

For instance, the ordinance empowers responding officers to use subjective judgment in determining whether any particular noise complaint is justified. At the same time, for businesses that host live entertainment, the law lays out objectively measurable limits on the sound levels (rated in decibels) they’re allowed to emit to the surrounding environment.

The confusion has raised a ruckus with the owners of live music venues and challenged town officials to clarify the muddle. Further complicating the matter are the private citizens the new ordinance is intended to protect, of whom none can seem to agree on what a disturbance is, and isn’t.

Literally above the fray, Humphrey and other residents of Grandview Heights offer mixed opinions on the need for tighter noise restrictions in the downtown area.

Humphrey obviously believes they’re needed. But, not quite directly across the street, about 50 yards more distant from the Boone Saloon than Judy Humphrey’s bedroom window, Maggie Farrington and her young daughter, Mason, stopped to talk in the warmth of a hazy, autumn afternoon.

Maggie thought about the effect of noise on her family’s quality of life.

“We don’t have many issues with noise,” she said, “but I know it does affect the neighbors.”

She glanced across the street, toward the lot where Humphrey and husband Terry Taylor have their home.

“I know they’ve been having a lot of issues,” she said. “It could just be that we’re blocked from most of (the sounds) by the hill and the buildings and the trees. Anyway, we don’t have much of an issue ourselves, but we back the law in support of our neighbors.”

Back across the street, Humphrey’s next door neighbor, a young father, has trouble recalling any noise disturbances himself. Though, he is carrying a toddler in his arms and likely has in-house noise issues to contend with.

Down on Orchard Street, a little more than 100 feet from King Street and the night spot in question, Heather Goldstein stood on her front porch and shook her head at the prospect of clamping down on the music. “The sound doesn’t really bother me,” she said.

Goldstein’s porch looks directly down on the Boone Saloon’s smoking area, otherwise known as the front door. The music, she said, and the crowds are noticeable at times, but not bothersome. “I know some people may be more sensitive to it than I am, but I don’t really have any problem with it,” she said.

Back up the hill on Grand Boulevard, Christopher Curtin has a noise complaint of his own. Never mind the Boone Saloon, whose weekly midnight serenades he said are all but silenced by two rows of condominiums, the hillside and a line of tree-shaded homes.

Instead, he points to Kidd Brewer stadium, which lies in full view from his perspective in the driveway. “It’s annoying,” he said. “The football games I can understand, you know? You expect that. But almost every day during certain parts of the year, it’s boom! boom! boom! And it goes on for hours.”

Practicing marching bands, it seems, can be noisy, too.

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