Jacksonville, Nunan Estates strike accord

JACKSONVILLE — The city and owners of a historic home have struck a compromise on the number of outdoor amplified music events that can be held at the property as well as the level of noise that will be permitted.

In Wednesday's meeting, the city Planning Commission agreed to allow Nunan Estates to hold 10 events annually, with a maximum noise level of 68 decibels.

"The Planning Commission basically split the difference," said City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen.

City staff had recommended a maximum of 14 events and an 80-decibel limit. Some neighbors pushed for limits of six events and 40 decibels.

Nunan Estates, 635 N. Oregon St., has become a popular outdoor wedding venue. Neighbors have complained since the events first began in 2008 that sound limits were exceeded and that more events were held than permits allowed. Estate owners say they need the additional events to make the operation financially viable.

The City Council in May reversed a January commission decision that would have allowed an unlimited number of amplified events. The May decision would have allowed six events and a 40-decibel maximum, but granted an exception this year for previously booked events.

"I feel like they completely ignored the valid concerns expressed by the neighbors this season and the previous season," Lynne Lawry said of the approval. Lawry lives just north of the estate on Autumn Lane.

Lawry said commission approval is supposed to be based on adherence to previous conditions on events and noise. She said the estate did not meet previous criteria, but the commission did not consider that because no violations or citations had been issued to the business.

"We are pretty happy with it in all," said Derek Wolfe, co-owner of the estate. "Of course, we would like to accommodate all the people that would like to have events there. If there are more, we can get a special permit to have one or two more."

Wolfe also thinks the decibel limit, which would be measured at the front gate, is acceptable.

"In reality, I don't think we were very much above that even a year ago," said Wolfe. "I think the 68 decibels will be pretty workable for all involved."

City staff previously had said 85 decibels of sound was equivalent to the noise made by a passing car. The Britt Festivals in Jacksonville has a 92-decibel limit for its events.

A study session was held earlier at the site to measure sound levels at three locations — the dance floor, a nearby neighbor's property and the front gate. Wyntergreen said the front gate was selected because police can readily monitor sound from there during events.

Neighbor Kay Wilhite said she's not happy with the decision, but was glad that monitoring criteria were established to deal with possible infringements.

Planning commission members will review the final order at their next meeting. The permit will go into effect during October. At that time, either the estate or neighbors could appeal the decision to Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeal.

"Right now, I don't see anything too drastic happening," said Wolfe, when asked if he would appeal. But Lawry did not preclude the possibility.

"Given the fact that the estate events have been so disturbing, and that the Planning Commission allowed the events to be greater in number and volume ... this issue is not over for the neighbors," said Lawry.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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