Several business owners said they would support Portland reactivating a dormant committee to monitor and mediate noise disputes in the city’s downtown.

Bob Waitkevitch, who serves on the city-sanctioned Sound Oversight Committee, said the committee has not met in over two years.

Waitkevitch, who also owns the Fore Play Sports Pub, said the committee only convenes when a “verified noise complaint” is received by Portland police.

A verified complaint is one that has been filed by more than one aggrieved party during a seven-day period or five or more separate complaints in a 30-day period – a process that was set up to protect individual businesses from being targeted by a single person. According to the city’s website, the committee can impose noise reduction measures and if they are not followed, the committee can recommend the City Council take action against the business.

The committee consists of four members, including Portland Police Department Lt. Gary Hutchenson, its chairman.

“They haven’t met in two years because they haven’t had any verified complaints,” said Denine Leeman, chairwoman of Portland Downtown’s board of directors.

Wednesday’s ‘Noise Downtown’ meeting at Portland City Hall was organized by Leeman and Portland Downtown – formerly known as Portland’s Downtown District. About 25 people, most of them downtown businessmen and women, attended.

The meeting was held to finalize a list of recommendations for resolving disputes over loud noises. The group has been trying to strike a balance between protecting the rights of overnight guests at downtown hotels who say they’ve been disturbed by late-night noise against the rights of Old Port bars and nightclubs that generate loud noise – especially around the 1 a.m. closing time.

City Manager Jon Jennings will have the recommendations reviewed by the city’s Planning Department and corporation counsel. City staff could then draft a noise ordinance to present to the City Council for adoption.

Leeman said that a noise ordinance would only apply to businesses in Portland’s downtown – the area bordered by High, Franklin, Commercial and Congress streets.

Leeman said mitigating noise in the downtown has become an issue because more and more people are opting to live in the district. But, a noise ordinance also needs to be balanced so that it doesn’t drive existing bars and nightclubs out of business.

“The economic viability and success of everyone in this room depends on that (striking a balance),” Leeman said.

Doug Fuss, who own Bull Feeney’s, an Irish pub and restaurant located in Portland’s Old Port, said he likes the idea of having the Sound Oversight Committee meet on a monthly basis to review police calls for service.

Fuss said the committee could also help mediate disputes.

The committee is recommending that outdoor speakers be more effectively regulated to reduce noise and that doors to bars and nightclubs be kept closed at all times.

The committee also wants police to take noise complaints more seriously.

“Calls made to the Portland Police Department have been met with little help such as ‘you live in the Old Port,’ ” Portland Downtown wrote in its list of recommendations.


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