Noise limited since complaints voiced

1/23/2014

Group conducts sound testing at events center.

Group conducts sound testing at events center.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Since neighbors complained to the Finney County Commission in early December, there haven't been any more complaints about excessive noise from an event center located on Jennie Barker Road just outside the city limits northeast of Garden City.

However, save for a New Year's Eve party, it's unclear how many events the club has had during the past month and a half.

Still, those involved in trying to resolve the issue believe progress has been made.

Just before Christmas, a group that included representatives of concerned neighbors, law enforcement, the planning department and Finney County met with the owner, Jose Torres, and his DJ to conduct sound tests.

Torres received permission in 2011 from the county — which overruled the planning commission — to build a 12,000-square-foot, prefabricated building on about 7.5 acres of his 150-plus acre property located about a half-mile north of Kansas Highway 156 on Jennie Barker Road. At the time, Torres indicated he planned to rent the building for weddings, receptions, dances or other private events where several hundred people could gather.

Neighbors went to the county commission in December complaining that the facility, Alegria Express, had effectively become a nightclub that was generating loud music late into the night, disturbing their sleep.

Unlike the city, the county does not have an ordinance prohibiting noise. However, based on complaints from neighbors, planning and zoning officials began an investigation.

Kaleb Kentner, planning and community development director, said that during the testing the DJ set the music's volume at the level he normally plays it at and decibel readings were taken in several locations.

"We took several readings, as far away as a quarter-mile. Then we adjusted the sound, took more readings and got it to acceptable levels to most everyone around," Kentner said.

Commissioner Duane Drees, who was present during the testing, visited with Torres about the issue and found him agreeable to finding a solution. Much of the problem appeared to be due to an excessive amount of bass.

From his own observations, Drees said, no matter how loud the volume was turned up inside the building, all that could be heard farther than about 50 yards away from the doors was the bass.

"All the vocals and everything else kind of faded away, but that bass seems to carry, resonate for long distances," he said. "But I think it will be resolved. I really do. I think the owner wants to be a good neighbor."

Wiley Wesley, one of the neighbors who lives near the club, said a New Year's Eve party generated some noise, but neighbors didn't make a big deal about it.

"A few of us heard it for just a little bit, but you know, it was New Year's Eve night. They haven't had an event since," he said.

Right now, Wesley and other neighbors are taking a wait-and-see approach to the issue.

"Hopefully, we came up with a decibel level for him not to exceed in that building. Hopefully, we got something done. He's trying. I'll give him that. He's changed some doors around, added some more insulation," Wesley said.

Torres could not be reached for comment.

There haven't been any calls about noise since the initial complaints heard by the county commission last month, Sheriff Kevin Bascue said. However, he added that he's unsure how many times the building has been rented since then, if any.

"I think (the property owner) has gotten the message, and I think he's been making efforts to be a good neighbor. I think that meeting when all those neighbors came was a good thing. It brought the situation to light," Bascue said.

Moving forward, any new complaints about disturbing the peace will be investigated and prosecuted, Bascue said.

"We informed all our deputies that if a citizen complains, we would handle it the way we do noise complaints anywhere else. We typically give a warning, and if it continues, we cite the individual. All of our deputies are aware of that, and we have let the owner of that property and his attorney know that," Bascue said. "If we do have those issues, citations could result. And that hasn't been an issue at this time, that I'm aware of."

Kentner said the investigation essentially is wrapped up on his end. According to Kentner, Torres has agreed to turn the music down to a level acceptable to everyone. So far, Kentner's office hasn't received any more complaints since the pre-Christmas testing.

Kentner credited Drees with helping resolve the situation, and said he plans to make a report to the county commission in February.

"We'll let the county commission be the final say on that when they get the report. If they want us to do anything else, we'll go from there," Kentner said.

Kentner emphasized approved zoning does not mean anything goes for a property.

"Just because you have proper zoning for what you're doing, it doesn't mean that what you're doing can cause problems for your neighbors or next door businesses and so forth. You still have to be accommodating to the needs of others," he said.

Wesley is satisfied with the response to the situation — as far as it goes.

"As of now, yes. I can't say anything about the future because they've only had the one event," he said. "I heard it, and some other property owners heard, but they felt the same way I did since it was New Year's Eve. It's a wait-and-see attitude. We're trying to work together and get things settled. We'll just have to see when the weather warms up, and he starts having more events."

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