In a 5-3 decision that was met with boos and disappointment from residents, the Des Plaines City Council on Monday night extended a conditional use permit allowing a controversial outdoor tent at a banquet facility to operate for another 18 months.
The 6,000-square-foot tent sits just west of the 120,000-square-foot Fountain Blue banquet hall at 2300 Mannheim Road. It was initially put up without permission and has been operating since 2010 under a temporary conditional use permit, which recently expired.
Neighbors have complained about the noise to police 12 times, and the facility has been cited five times for disturbing the peace, drawing fines for four of the five citations.
The city council approved the extension Monday, despite a recommendation to deny by the city's zoning board, provided the facility owner meets 20 conditions to eliminate the noise that's disturbing residents of roughly 18 single-family homes and a number of townhouses nearby. Among them is a 12-foot sound retention wall on two sides of the tent that must be constructed within 120 days of permit approval.
Fountain Blue owner Tom Diamond already has spent $50,000 on sound mitigation for the tent, officials said.
"If Mr. Diamond is willing to invest this money in the fence, it could work, and I hope it does for the sake of the neighbors," 1st Ward Alderwoman Patti Haugeberg said before voting for the extension.
Diamond objected to one of the conditions that would have required any event held under the tent to conclude by 10 p.m. The council then agreed to allow him to operate the tent until midnight against the wishes of neighbors.
"I'm very disappointed to see how the city board can railroad what they want to approve instead of doing the right thing," said Sandra Dillon, a resident of Pine Street whose property sits immediately behind the banquet facility. "It's midnight seven nights a week."
Nathan Sevener, a sound engineering consultant hired by the city, said the retention wall should reduce the noise by 6 to 8 decibels and bring the sound level below the acceptable standard set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board for residential properties.
"It's generally considered a considerable reduction," Sevener said. "The levels that we're at right now are just barely under the regulations. It has to be a solid, rigid masonry wall."
Diamond's own sound consultant and architect proposed building a cedar wood fence that could be insulated with sound absorbing material on the side facing the tent, which Sevener agreed would also work.
However, some aldermen weren't convinced the wall would solve the problem.
Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman, in whose ward includes the banquet facility, said on some nights he clearly has heard noise and music at the property line.
"Constructing a sound wall may bring relief, but there will very likely be audible noise going into the neighborhood," he said.
Brookman suggested that Diamond be required to get rid of the outdoor tent and build a concrete structure, modeled on the inside to give the ambience of a tent, to provide a permanent solution to residents complaints.
"I think that's the long-term solution here, not a wall," he said.
Resident Stavroula Montes said she and her husband recently bought a home in the neighborhood behind Fountain Blue to raise their family. They are working parents of small children who have had a hard time falling asleep with the noise from the tent, she said.
"We spent a lot of money on the house. All we are asking for is respect for our property and our value," she said.