After hearing nearly two hours of residents' objections, the Des Plaines City Council on Monday night approved a conditional use permit allowing a controversial outdoor tent at the Fountain Blue banquet facility to remain open.
The 5-3 vote Monday extends a temporary conditional use permit granted to the facility in January 2011 but that expired earlier this year. The council allowed the tent to remain for another 18 months, if the owner meets 20 conditions to eliminate noise affecting residents of roughly 18 single-family homes and a number of townhouses nearby.
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Those conditions include erecting a 12-foot sound retention wall on two sides of the tent within 120 days of permit approval.
City officials said Fountain Blue owner Tom Diamond already has spent $50,000 on sound mitigation for the 6,000-square-foot tent, which sits just west of the 120,000-square-foot Fountain Blue banquet hall at 2300 Mannheim Road.
The tent was initially put up without city council authorization in 2009, officials acknowledged. Neighbors have been fighting the tent ever since.
Neither Diamond nor his attorney was present Monday.
Over the past two years, residents have sent 20 emails complaining about excessive noise from the tent to the city's building department and made 50 complaints to police, and the facility has been cited five times for disturbing the peace, drawing fines for four of the five citations, said Bill Dillon, a resident of Pine Street whose property sits immediately behind the banquet facility.
"When the tent went up 2½ years ago, (the owner) did not fully address the issue of mitigating the sound," Dillon said. "He has had 2½ years to solve this problem. Do you really want the neighbors to go through a third summer? Put it in a building. Let him continue his business. This is the only long-range solution. Otherwise we are back at the table again."
Residents argued their case before the city's zoning board, which recommended denial of the permit extension in March.
Diamond himself spoke against Concorde Banquets in Kildeer putting up a similar permanent outdoor tent for weddings and parties 865 feet from his home six years ago.
Diamond and his neighbors defeated the Kildeer tent proposal by citing the negative impact the noise would have on their quality of life and property values -- the same reasons Des Plaines residents oppose his Fountain Blue tent, which is 380 feet from their homes, Dillon said.
Dillon said the ordinance approved Monday says nothing about how noise from the facility will be monitored after the retention wall is built, and it doesn't specify any consequences if Fountain Blue violates the permit conditions.
Sandra Dillon said Diamond put up the tent illegally and has infringed on the neighbors ever since.
"He has taken Des Plaines for suckers," she said, adding that the proposed sound retention wall would not solve the noise problem.
"Sound has no boundaries," she said. "You are fooling yourself if you think this is going to solve the problem."
Sandra Dillon said the city's own sound engineering consultant said the retention wall would reduce the noise by 6 to 8 decibels -- bringing the sound level below the acceptable standard set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board for residential properties -- but not eliminate it.
At a previous meeting, Diamond's sound consultant and architect proposed building a cedar fence that could be insulated with sound-absorbing material on the side facing the tent.
Neighbors also had called for the city to require events held under the tent to conclude by 10 p.m. Diamond objected to that condition earlier, and the council agreed to allow him to operate the tent until midnight.