Ram’s Head Inn owners want redraft of noise ordinance

REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Ram's Head Inn.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Ram’s Head Inn.

They’re mad and they don’t want to take it anymore.

Ram’s Head Inn owners Linda and James Eklund told the Town Board at its recent work session the noise ordinance is being erratically enforced and needs to be revisited and revised.

“The law needs to be redrafted” because it pits neighbors against neighbors, Ms. Eklund said.

The Eklunds received a summons, not their first encounter with police but the first time they have received a summons, for allegedly violating the town’s noise ordinance. Ms. Eklund told the board that one neighbor in particular has made it a habit to complain when she passed the Ram’s Head Inn during an event. Police said while music couldn’t be heard inside the woman’s house, it could be heard from the driveway. Ms. Eklund said the Inn seldom has outdoor music, opting instead to have music inside the Inn.

On one occasion, a neighbor burst in assaulting a singer and on another occasion, a neighbor parked outside and leaned on her horn. A bartender stepped out to try to stop that noise and wedding guests entered the street to see what was going on.

There were other situations, Ms. Eklund said.

“It’s a rough thing for us,” Ms. Eklund said.

The town’s ordinance refers to noise that would disturb a person of “reasonable sensitivities” but that’s “very subjective,” Ms. Eklund said. She said the occasions where music is heard outside are rare and less than other venues that advertise music as often as seven nights a week during the summer season.

Enforcement of the law is complaint driven, so while there can be worse violators about whom no one calls, the Eklunds get a summons because some in the community don’t like them, she said.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said that if people keep complaining, the police have to respond.

“Either the law is the law or it’s not the law,” Ms. Eklund responded.

For people to move into an area where there is a business that sometimes hosts weddings and other events and expect total quiet is like moving next to an airport and complaining about planes flying overhead, she said.

At the suggestion from Town Board members to try to meet with complaining residents, the Eklunds said they have made overtures without success.

For hotels, restaurants and bars to flourish on the Island, they can’t always limit sounds to quiet conversation, Ms. Eklund said.

She has suggested a change in the allowable noise level to 70 from 50 decibels. And she has suggested listing hours during which such music could emanate from any place.

Other Island establishments have also had music that exceeds the noise levels, but they’re not bothered as often as the Ram’s Head Inn is, Ms. Eklund said.

Mr. Eklund said the couple doesn’t want to throw other business owners under the bus, but just wants “more even-handed enforcement.”

In fact, both noted their Inn brings guests who frequent other Island businesses and the Inn also has employed children of some of the same neighbors who are now complaining.

Some Island residents first discovered the town when they stayed at the Inn and now they are taxpaying residents, Ms. Eklund said.

The Eklunds think that their proposal to sell the Ram’s Head to Easton Porter, a company that produces weddings, precipitated more complaints about noise from the Inn. But complaints have been made as far back as 1982, she said.

Both Eklunds blame signs put out in the area urging rejection of the proposal from Easton Porter for being the last straw that resulted in the deal going south.

“This town, this community lost a lot” when the deal was pulled by the company that had made it clear no purchase would take place without neighbors’ support, Ms. Eklund said, predicting that owners would have seen a rise in the value of their properties had the deal been consummated. He said all issues neighbors raised about the Easton Porter plan would have been addressed but “a silent majority was taken back by a vocal minority” in the Ram Island Association and that defeated the deal.

She said the septic system on the property was to be upgraded and the number of weddings and events wouldn’t exceed the number that have occurred in past years. Nor would water use that is limited by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Some neighbors don’t want an Inn operating in the area at all, but would like to see someone purchase the property for a private residence. A deal was on the table several years ago, but the price offered, $6 million, was too low, Mr. Eklund said.

There is no activity on the site that wasn’t present even before the Eklunds purchased the Inn, his wife said.

The Ram’s Head is one of the Island’s oldest and largest employers on the Island, the Eklunds said.

Town Board members agreed to speak with Police Chief Jim Read and then to consider whether there are any changes they would propose in the law.

The Reporter has offered the Ram Island Association and neighbors the opportunity to speak about their concerns and should they choose to do so, comments will appear in the October 18 issue.

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