The longstanding tension between representatives of the Larsa Banquet Hall and neighboring Amethyst Way residents over the noise emanating from events at the hall is far from over as the next step to decide if the county planning commission will revoke the event center’s license won’t be taken for three to six more months.
While neighbors and Larsa representatives attended the Stanislaus County Planning Commission on Tuesday hoping to receive a decision on the issues that has plagued the two parties for several years, what they were granted was a continuation of the dispute after the County Counsel explained that a noise ordinance within the Stanislaus County Code could be unenforceable.
According to Deputy County Counsel Thomas Boze 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.
Boze explained to the commissioners that their decision to revoke or amend Larsa Event Center’s conditional use permit based upon this ordinance could prove problematic down the line if the ordinance doesn’t hold up. Ordinances can be proved unenforceable for several reasons such as appearing unclear, arbitrary, capricious, or if they violate constitution rights.
“Basing those additional decisions on the violation of this 200 foot prohibition, that’s the underpinning. Everybody’s standing on that rug and if it’s not enforceable that pulls the rug right out from underneath your decision,” explained Boze.
Sixty-seven noise complaints have been filed against the Larsa Banquet Hall in the last five years and on Tuesday Amethyst Way neighbors expressed their exasperation and concerns before the commission citing the deterioration of the their quality of life. Four of the Amethyst Way residents have also been sued by the representatives of Larsa Hall.
“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 commission on Tuesday. “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.”
Storms also stated that it was per the direction of the planning department and the commission that they should call the sheriff if the bass became a problem.
According to Larsa’s attorney Brett Dickerson the noise issues plaguing the Amethyst Way neighbors cannot be directly linked to Larsa Hall stating that noise as far away as 1.3 miles can be heard on Amethyst Way.
Dickerson also sent a statement in opposition to the revocation of the permit to the county on Oct. 6 stating that events in the last six months have been “nothing short of bizarre” claiming that the Amethyst residents have made false complaints, taken late night drives through the Larsa parking lot, and that music disturbances undetectable in the parking lot were allegedly rattling windows of nearby neighbors. Dickerson also noted the steps that Larsa has taken to mitigate noise in previous months.
The commission’s unanimous decision on Tuesday to postpone a vote on the revocation process until the noise ordinance is clear was indicative of the commissioner’s intent to help the entire community at large.
“I’m in complete confusion at this point. I believe both sides 100 percent and we have to first define what we’re measuring because this is impossible to call,” said Comissioner Marc Etchebarne. “Let’s get some real data.”
The testimonies expressed Tuesday were precipitated by almost a year of discussions between the Amethyst Way residents, Larsa representatives, and the county. In November Larsa was granted six months to be in compliance with the County’s Conditions of Approval after being cited for several reasons including excessive noise. In April the neighbors and Larsa reappeared before the commission which granted an additional six months for a noise study to be done during the hall’s busy season per the request of an Amethyst neighbor. If the hall received more than four verified complaints by the sheriff’s office the commission would vote to begin the revocation process of the hall’s permit. The second extension granted Tuesday provides County Counsel a goal of three but no more than six additional months to determine which ordinance’s are enforceable and the decision of the fate of Larsa Hall will then be determined.