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Businesses defend noise complaints

Lower Towamensing Township residents complained about noise last week.

Some residents reported loud music at Covered Bridge Inn, while others were concerned that the new building at Quiet Hills Lavender Farm could become a noise event venue. Both businesses were contacted for comment, and responded.

The township’s zoning ordinance is categorized in two groups for noise limits. The first group is zoned I for industrial and V-C for Village Center, and the second is all other zoning districts, which includes R-R for resort and recreation, R-C for rural conservation, R-1 for low density residential, and R-2 for medium/high density residential. Covered Bridge Inn is at the V-C district, and Quiet Hills is in R-C zoning district.

The zoning ordinance states that noise at the lot line of a property in I and V-C zoning districts can be a maximum of 85 decibels between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the sound of a lawn mower is between 80 to 100 decibels. Overnight from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., the maximum decibel level is 75. Normal conversation at arm’s length is between 65 and 80 decibels.

The noise at the lot line where Quiet Hills is located can have a maximum of 80 decibels during day and 70 decibels overnight.

Quiet Hills farm

“There’s the rumor that I’m hearing that they’re building an event center,” said Drew Everett. “They applied for a permit to build a building for agriculture intent, never with the intent to use it for agricultural purposes. And so I’m concerned how supervisors are going to handle this, as well as zoning because as a local resident - and I live within a half mile of the location - I’m concerned about what decisions are going to be made and what we’re going to do heading forth.”

Solicitor James Nanovic told Everett that the permit did not mention an event center, but that agricultural tourism is a permitted use in that zone.

Steve Meining, a resident who routinely voices his opinion of short-term rentals and was the catalyst behind the township’s short-term rental ordinance, said there was a three-day wedding event and reception at Blue Shamrock about a year ago, and he doesn’t want that kind of loud noise in his area. He lives about 1.5 miles from the farm.

“Now in my mind, this is the ol’ bait and switch strategy. You put in for one thing and once it’s built you try and sneak in something else,” Meining said. “Well, I’ll go on record right now in saying that I am adamantly against allowing this.”

In an interview, Christopher Anthony, the owner of Quiet Hills Lavender Farms, said he was surprised to hear there were concerns about his business expressed at a township meeting.

“The big thing that everybody needs to remember is that we live here,” Anthony said.

He literally does. Anthony and his wife live in house that used to be a church retreat center. The retreat center closed, and they bought it. His wife started growing lavender simply because she likes it. Over time, it evolved into a business.

Anthony said the growth of their farm business necessitated the new building.

The gift shop will be moved from the small structure near the entrance to the farm to the new building, as will the drying of the lavender from their house to the new structure.

Anthony also hopes to put bathrooms in the new building, so that people visiting the farm do not have to use the bathroom in his house. But he hasn’t gotten the approval for that from the township, yet.

As for the other things that are offered on the farm, photo sessions among the lavender will still continue in the field, but Anthony would like to offer the yoga classes and paint classes in the building year round. Currently, they are only available on warm days when it doesn’t rain.

Anthony admitted that people have often asked them if they could have a wedding there among the lavender. He would like to give that option to people, but it would have to be for a small reception since the building also has other uses. He considers allowing weddings to be part of agriculture tourism, because “no one would want to get married here if it wasn’t for the lavender.”

Covered Bridge Inn

Regarding Covered Bridge Inn on Little Gap Road, several residents said the music is too loud and goes late into the night.

Casey Creyer said, “21 out of 31 days last month, you could hear music a half a mile away. The decibels allowed to leave their property, at that stop sign is only supposed to be 75 decibels. That’s like running a vacuum cleaner. Now if someone is running a vacuum cleaner down there, I shouldn’t be hearing it. If someone is running a lawn mower down there, which is 90 decibels, I shouldn’t read it. There’s other people that have come to me and said the same thing. What can we do about this?”

Leslie Dixon said she doesn’t mind music, but this was just too loud. She thinks the problem is because there is an outdoor eating area, stage, and music almost every night.

John Horne, the owner of Covered Bridge Inn, said the outdoor venue is new. It has been present for a year. They only have live music on the weekends, and the rest of the time they regulate the volume on their outdoor sound system.

“We are in a valley so the sound is really amazing, but travels as well,” he said.

Horne said he bought a decibel monitor in order to try to stay within compliance of the ordinance.

“I understand and recognize the irritation for a few individuals but the reality is that there is constant traffic noise at our intersection, which surpasses the noise level over any band we have ever had perform,” he said. “The noise issues are a grievance that is a part of our growing pains, but we are compliant with regulations and will continue to do so.”

The supervisors said they would talk to the township’s zoning officer about their complaints.

Quiet Hills Lavender Farm is in the process of building this structure to house its gift shop, area for drying lavender, space for classes, and possibly small wedding receptions. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO