Officials must approve a plan to deal with noise from Rock Row concerts before any performances can be held at the outdoor venue this summer, according to Westbrook City Planning Director Jennie Franceschi.

No concerts were held last summer because of the pandemic. This summer’s concert season hinges on the availability of workers and performers, according to Alex Gray, owner of Waterfront Concerts, which lines up events for the Maine Savings Pavilion at Rock Row.

The concerts in the 2019 inaugural season drew noise complaints from nearby Portland and Westbrook residents, with some claiming the music was so loud it made windows rattle. The complaints led to heated community meetings between Portland’s Nason’s Corner Neighborhood Association, other neighbors, Waterfront Concerts and Rock Row developer Waterstone. The Portland City Council sent a letter to Rock Row in 2019, calling for more sound mitigation.

Waterfront Concerts has hired an independent sound specialist to create an mitigation plan in response to the complaints, according to Waterstone Chief Financial Officer Greg John.

“We are working with all parties to advance a process that satisfactorily addresses past concerns and, hopefully, brings music back to the Maine Savings Pavilion,” John said.

An outspoken critic of the noise, Nason’s Corner resident Tyler Kemp said he is “hoping for some transparency with Waterfront and Waterstone.”

“We’d like to know the plan for sound mitigation,” Kemp said. “I’m dying to get a show. I want concerts to happen. Our argument all along is to just be considerate.”

He’d also like to see results from a 2019-2020 study that was supposed to outline issues and possible solutions with noise, he said, but there has been “radio silence” since the pandemic.

“It could be as simple as this: Let us know the findings of the report, let us know what the suggestions were, and let us know how you plan to address them and the Planning Board before you do because it always seems to be this 11th-hour squeeze,” Kemp said.

Kemp worries the sound plan will get pushed through the Planning Board with little time for public review.

“We never get to a point where we can have concrete conversations about the proposal about sound mitigation and what Waterfront is willing, or not, to do and what the way forward is,” Kemp said.

Gray said it is too early to comment on specific sound mitigation plans or when they may go before the planning board, as the plans are still being formed.

Gray said he is more hopeful about getting some live music at Rock Row this season than he was only a few months ago, now that pandemic restrictions on artists’ travel and crowd sizes have eased. He’s in early talks with artists, city officials and employees, he said.

With the workforce shortage, he said he is unsure if “it’ll be possible for us to mount a charge to get literally 1,000 employees between two shows on the same night in Bangor and Westbrook.” Waterfront also books concerts at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor.

“We may not be able to get over that,” Gray said. “We are reaching out to former employees to see where we are at but too much is unknown.”

Waterfront is touch with the state about vaccination drives for employees, he said.

“We want to make sure our staff is comfortable, taken care of. We are polling how many would do vaccines,” Gray said.

With the late start, it also might be difficult to find artists to play, he said.

The country duo Brothers Osborne is booked to play at the pavilion July 31, but the date could get pushed back, Gray said. The July 31 date was in part a test to help Waterfront to gauge interest in ticket sales.

With the artists we have, everything else has been a game of kick the can down the road hoping to get into a clearer pasture,” Gray said.

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