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updated: 6/16/2014 9:15 AM

Can a suburb with a lake keep its old resort feel ... yet keep quiet at night?

Wauconda looks at noise rules to cut down on noise pounding residents along Bangs Lake

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  • Video: Wauconda Noise Policy

  • Patrons enjoy the outdoor dining and bar area overlooking Bangs Lake at Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.

       Patrons enjoy the outdoor dining and bar area overlooking Bangs Lake at Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • The outdoor dining area overlooking Bangs Lake at Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.

       The outdoor dining area overlooking Bangs Lake at Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.

       Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.

       Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Jeff Lencioni owns Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.

       Jeff Lencioni owns Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Kildeer-based band Smarty Pants -- with Steve Gezeler, left, playing lead guitar, Robert Touella playing bass, Mario Losacco on drums, Steve Dee playing the flute, and Anne Christy, lead singer -- plays at the Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.

       Kildeer-based band Smarty Pants -- with Steve Gezeler, left, playing lead guitar, Robert Touella playing bass, Mario Losacco on drums, Steve Dee playing the flute, and Anne Christy, lead singer -- plays at the Docks Bar and Grill in Wauconda.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

When the wind is blowing just right, Wauconda resident Tim Howe and his wife, Beth Ann, can take their pontoon boat onto nearby Bangs Lake and listen to the live music playing at Docks Bar and Grill or Lindy's Landing Restaurant and Marina.

"We've always felt that Bangs Lake has a wonderful resort atmosphere, and the live music along the shore contributes greatly to that," Howe said.

But not everyone is as pleased with the tunes that emanate from the bars.

"As a lakefront resident of 15 years, I would have to say I don't care for it too much," Berly Gardiner said. "It makes it difficult to sleep some weekend nights."

Responding to citizen complaints, Wauconda officials are preparing to adopt new rules limiting noise in town, especially music from the lakeside bars in the one-time resort area in southwestern Lake County.

The proposal, which would replace an older and occasionally complicated ordinance, forbids the outdoor amplification of sound or music after certain hours every night. The rules also limit the volume of other noise sources, such as construction equipment.

Village board members reviewed the proposal last week. They could approve the plan when they next meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at village hall, 101 N. Main St.

Jeff Lencioni, who owns Docks, isn't pleased. He's concerned the rules could hurt his business.

"That's what this place is known for -- bands and music." he said. "If I can't have that, you might as well put the key in the door."

Focus is on two bars

In the works for two years, the proposal specifically was prompted by complaints about late-night music at Docks, 313 E. Liberty St., and Lindy's Landing, 115 Park St.

Lindy's is on the lake's southwest side, in the heart of Wauconda's downtown business district. Docks is less than a half-mile away on the lake's south side.

Docks hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and on Sunday afternoons. Lindy's has bands on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

Wauconda has other bars, but noise from those on the lake travels farther because sound waves are amplified by water, officials said.

Under the proposed rules:

• Sundays through Thursdays, the outdoor amplification of music would be banned from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

• Fridays and Saturdays, the noise ban would run from 11 p.m. through 7 a.m.

The ban would run from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on the nights before six holidays, too: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Earlier drafts of the ordinance were set for votes in November 2013 and then again in December. But action was postponed so the rules could be tweaked and clarified and some contradictory information could be removed, Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner said.

"I believe this version is clear and enforceable," Maxeiner said.

Gardiner, who lives near the bars on the 400 block of North Main Street, welcomes the proposed changes.

"I work retail and almost always work on the weekends, so Friday and Saturday nights are work nights for me," she said. "On a hot summer weekend night, if I would ever want to sleep with the windows open, it would be very difficult with the band noise."

But Lencioni called the proposed rules "a little bit too strict." He'd prefer if the limits went into effect at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer months, to make up for business lost during the rough winter.

"(This is) the time of year when everybody's enjoying the lake," he said. "That extra hour could generate a lot of revenue for all of the establishments."

A Lindy's representative couldn't be reached for comment. Last year, co-owner Laurie Barth said she was "vehemently opposed" to any changes to the noise rules.

Lencioni was among the people who spoke to the board about the proposal during its discussion last week. Inspired by his comments, the board added one more clause to the rules: On Fridays and Saturdays and the nights before the specified holidays, ambient noise from televisions, stereos or other sources will be allowed at the bars from 11 p.m. until they close as long as the volume doesn't exceed 50 decibels from the property line.

That's slightly lower than the sound of normal conversation, according to physicsclassroom.com.

Officials could revisit that particular rule if noise complaints spike after 11 p.m. on those nights, Trustee John Barbini said.

"We want to see how this thing rolls out," he said.

Lencioni said he'll use a sound meter at night and will personally try to control the noise after 11 p.m.

"I want to keep peace in the community," he said. "I don't want to disturb anybody."

More than bar music

The rules wouldn't merely apply to the bars on Bangs Lake. Residential parties and other events would face the same restrictions.

Additionally, noise from construction work on a project that has been issued a village building permit would be limited to 80 decibels. Most other types of noise would be limited to 65 decibels at all times.

Measurements would be taken at the property line for private land or 25 feet from the source of the noise on public land.

Those rules are clearer than the directions in the current ordinance, which has different noise limits for the town's various zoning districts.

"The previous ordinance was a bit complicated to follow and enforce," Barbini said. "I think this is much more straightforward."

Village, county or state construction projects would be exempt. So would special events, emergency equipment or warning devices and athletic events and appropriate facilities.

Violators would face fines of up to $750 per incident and for each day the noise continues, Maxeiner said.

Noise-related fines typically range from $25 to $75, however, unless there have been prior tickets issued, Maxeiner said.

Barbini doesn't expect noise-sensitive residents or the bar owners will be completely happy with the new rules.

He's perfectly OK with that.

"We feel it's a workable compromise that can be understood and enforced," Barbini said.

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