Portland and Westbrook residents at a Rock Row neighborhood meeting in August. Most of the attendees brought up issues with the noise level from concerts. File photo

WESTBROOK — Following a premiere Rock Row concert season rife with noise complaints from Portland and Westbrook residents, Waterstone Properties has brought in an independent sound expert to perform and interpret sound tests to mitigate noise issues.

“We looked all over the country and chose David Coate Consulting; he is really well known,” said Greg John, Waterstone’s chief marketing officer. “He has done work for NASA, star recording artists, and he is a leader in his field and that was important. He also has never done work for Waterfront (Concerts) or Waterstone before; we wanted an independent consultant.”

Waterfront Concerts hosts the shows at the Maine Savings Pavilion at Waterstone’s Rock Row.

Coate was in Westbrook last week to conduct sound tests, which some residents may have heard from their homes. Once the data is interpreted, Coate and Waterstone plan to share it with the public while they work to come up with detailed strategies for noise mitigation.

Coate, who could not be reached for comment, is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His resume details work with NASA, Harvard University and other organizations. He also has experience specifically with amphitheater and concert sound.

“We feel with the people of Portland and particularly the Nason’s Corner people, they’ve gone through a lot,” John said. “Throughout the year tests were conducted, but those tests were handled by Waterfront Concerts, a tenant of Waterstone. After a year of their tests and doing the same type of tests, we decided to step up and get more involved in the process, with more in-depth tests. We dug a lot deeper. We pulled back the layers of the onion, so to speak, and really tried to understand what levels are impacting particularly the Nason’s Corner area more than others.”

Tyler Kemp, a Nason’s Corner resident who has been at previous community meetings about the noise at Rock Row, is hopeful about the new tests but still has reservations.

“(Coate’s) resume and methods, they pass the smell test for me, he is more than qualified,” Kemp said.

But Kemp said he and other Nason’s Corner residents are frustrated with being given data with little or no context. Kemp said that every time a point was made at the community meetings, Waterfront officials would cite their data and say no law was broken, effectively ending the conversation.

“Waterfront was using data and numbers, which they didn’t share, but any time someone (brought up their own) data, it would be dismissed or overridden,” Kemp said. “I don’t think neighbors are hopeful about the new report from (Coate) and that’s because it’s mixed up in the experiences we’ve had this summer.

Still, Kemp said he hopes Coate’s findings will provide concrete solutions to the noise issue.

“The difficulty is if he comes back with results that don’t have an impact on our experience in the neighborhood,” Kemp said. “At this point I would be surprised if that were the case. Waterstone seems committed to working with neighbors and not just ordinances.”

Coate will take the data from his tests and overlay it with topographical data, which will show if there is an environmental reason that Nason’s Corner is receiving the brunt of the sound, John said. Coate will then present his findings to Waterstone and help come up with solutions before the next concert season.

“Eventually before next season, he will have some concrete potential solutions for this problem,” John said. “What we will do before the concert, we will set a system and test those concepts and see if they work. You can’t duplicate a concert, though, so we expect to have some tweaks to make after the first concert, and hopefully have the solution down by the third concert.”

Coate will present his findings to neighbors and municipal officials.

“A very important process of this is, before the concerts, Coate will come to the neighborhood groups and government and community leaders,” John said. “We will meet with anyone who wants to meet with him.”

“The plan is for him to update me, which I will then update the Nason’s Corner Neighborhood Association, even if the update is that he is two or four weeks off from finishing. As far as reaching out with concrete solutions, that’ll be sometime next year before the concerts,” John said.

In a letter to Nason’s residents regarding the sound tests, Waterstone announced that the 2020 season will feature just 16 concerts, the same number as the opening season and fewer than half of what was initially proposed for 2020.

Reggae-rap artist Matisyahu performs at Rock Row in June. File photo

 

 

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