Public hearings scheduled for Ipswich outdoor entertainment policy

Tuesday February 22, 2022

IPSWICH – The Covid-19 pandemic spurred a turn to outdoor dining and entertainment for local restaurants.

Two years later, many dining establishments still rely on that extra revenue created by outdoor dining and entertainment, and the Ipswich Select Board is looking at measures to make sure the needs of the restaurants and the concerns of neighbors are balanced.

On March 7, the board is holding a public hearing on a new outdoor entertainment policy that will allow neighbors to weigh in on applications, and limit noise and hours for al fresco entertainment and events.

“We’re not the only ones going through this, so we wanted to look at outdoor entertainment policies,” said Town Manager Anthony Marino. He said he looked at similar policies in neighboring communities and drafted a policy that focuses on taking each application on a case by case basis where all abutters must be notified of the applications.

“We wanted to have a policy in place that gives residents a chance to not only know about it by getting abutter notifications, but also having a chance to come to the Select Board meeting to vent, and if they have any concerns they can be addressed,” said Marino.

The Select Board would then be able to weigh the input from residents before making a final decision on the applications.

In addition, restaurants and businesses could apply for either one-day or seasonal outdoor entertainment licenses.

The draft policy allows an avenue for revocation of the permits if the language regarding noise levels or hours is not followed. The draft presented by Marino allows for outdoor entertainment from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., with no more than four consecutive hours of music.

If neighbors state that they believe 9 p.m. is too late for music, Marino said the board can also take that into consideration when granting permits.

“One of the things that we’ve heard from a lot of the residents was that it’s not even so much the volume and the decibel level, it’s the bass that shakes the houses,” said Marino. “DJs and others can’t just crank up the bass to get everybody out on the dance floor.”

Upper River Road resident Tim Driscoll, who lives close to the Hellenic Center, agreed that the thumping bass is a major concern.

“It’s not the music per se, or the volume, it’s the noise of the bass,” said Driscoll. “We’ve been inside the house with the air conditioning on and we could just hear the boom, boom, boom. It’s a total invasive noise that’s more upsetting and needs to be controlled because it is outside.

Marino said the permits will not apply to establishments that already annually renew outdoor event permits, such as the Castle at the Crane Estate and Turner Hill Country Club.

Two public hearings for the policy are scheduled for March 7 and March 21 with the intent to have the policy in place by the end of March, said Marino.

“That way, anyone who wants to do it can start the application process in April,” he said.

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