After more than two years of discussions about numerous noise complaints, multiple public meetings and expert studies, the Stanislaus County Planning Commission has come up with a new Conditions of Approval they hope will make Larsa Banquet Hall and surrounding residents better neighbors.
Over the past six years, more than 70 noise complaints have been filed against Larsa Banquet Hall, located on E. Monte Vista Avenue, namely by Amethyst Way neighbors. The facility is owned by the Mar Addai Church and serves as a multi-purpose building for the church and an event hall. According to neighbors, the noise levels from large weddings and other parties held at the hall often become unbearable.
The situation between the church-owned rental hall and nearby residents escalated to lawsuits in 2014.
“They feel we have called the sheriff too much on noise issues and that we are doing it to put them out of business,” said Amethyst Way resident Tracee Storms to the Planning Commission in October 2014. “Because we have called the sheriff we have as citizens and residents of the area been sued in the amount of no less than $500,000. This has caused a lot of stress on my family, not only financial, but medical.”
The Planning Commission was not able to make an easy decision about the noise complaints for a number of reasons, including the county lacks the equipment to measure noise in decibels to comply with the Stanislaus County Code ordinance which sets limits for noise emanating from various buildings, such as residential, commercial, or industrial.
The Stanislaus County Code does have an ordinance in place stating that sound amplifying equipment audible by a distance greater than 200 feet is grounds to constitute a nuisance and in turn revoke a conditional use permit. It does not, however, address the low bass levels which have been central to the nearby residents’ complaints.
A study was conducted in February in collaboration between the County’s noise consultant, Ryan Smith of Elk Grove-based company AEC, and Larsa’s noise consultant. The noise study was performed under controlled conditions as the consultants placed an amplified music noise source inside of the building, similar to music that would be played at events typically held at Larsa.
Sound levels were measured inside the hall as well as various points outside, including inside a bedroom of one of the two-story Amethyst Way homes. The study determined that there was an impact on the neighbors.
From the study, the noise consultant offered recommendations for sound level limits at Larsa, with higher levels allowable during daytime hours and the requirement of monitoring equipment on site at all times. The proposed new conditions also include a “Good Neighbor Policy” to be submitted to the Planning Department, which would outline ways Larsa plans to mitigate any ancillary impacts on adjacent properties. The policy must also include means for neighbors to contact management regarding complaints and steps management will take upon receiving a complaint.
The recommendations were also used to craft New Conditions of Approval, which the Planning Commission will consider at their Nov. 19 meeting.