Wantage ‘caught in the middle’ between neighbors’ noise dispute

Wantage. As township works on its noise ordinance, the owner of a local beer garden defends his business while his neighbors complain about loud music.

19 Nov 2020 | 03:12

The owner of Skylands Craft Beer and Wine Garden defended his establishment against his neighbors Oil City Road who complain of excessive noise.

During the public comments portion of last Thursday’s Wantage council meeting, Oil City Road resident Donna Rockefeller complained about the noise the previous Sunday. She said it sounded like people were right in her yard.

Rockefeller also complained about cars spinning out and customers not wearing masks.

“We can’t enjoy our lives,” she said. “It was horrible for us. Why is the music so loud?”

Thompson said since he and his wife opened Skylands, they have tried to be a “good neighbor.” He said his liquor license allows him to have entertainment until 2 a.m., but he has refrained.

“We’ve opted to try to be a good neighbor by not having late-night entertainment,” Thompson said.

Last year, he said, the establishment had a bike night that generated complaints. He defended the motorcyclists’ right to be on the roads and visit licensed venues.

“But when I heard the complaints last year, I stopped it and tried to think of something else,” Thompson said.

He said he has measured the decibels emanating from his establishment and that he is below state requirements.

He tried to measure decibels from Route 284 but was unable to get a good reading because of the traffic.

“I wish I had an answer for you gentleman to solve these problems,” Thompson said. “If we could come up with a livable answer, I’d do it. But what they’re asking is for me to go out of business, and I can’t do it.”

Committeeman Ron Bassani said mediating neighbor-to-neighbor disputes is difficult for the township committee.

“The reaction of your neighbors has brought so much attention to the noise issue, and we struggle with quality of life,” Bassani said. “You have the right to your business, and they have a right to the quality of life, and we’re in the middle.”

Bassani said his establishment does have problems, such as cars parked up and down Route 284, and limits imposed by COVID-19 restriction. He asked if the bands can turn the volume down and not play so late.

Thompson said he has bands stop at 9 p.m.

“We tried that before we even had a complaint,” Thompson said.

Wantage officials are now working on a new ordinance. Mayor Jonathan Morris apologized for not having anything new to report.

“I didn’t have my homework done in order to have it done tonight,” Morris said. “I know you guys have been looking for something. It’s not that we’re not working on it.”

He said he hopes to have something ready for the next meeting.