A neighborhood dispute over noise from the Black Ram restaurant in Des Plaines appears to have simmered down -- at least for now -- after the restaurant's installation of a patio didn't prove to be as much of a disturbance as nearby residents feared.
But that episode, along with a previous controversy over noise from a Fountain Blue banquet hall outdoor tent on Mannheim Road, has led Des Plaines officials to re-examine their noise ordinance in hopes of averting future disputes.
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George Sakas, the city's director of community and economic development, said current city code essentially states that noise cannot be emitted beyond one's property line -- rules that Sakas called vague and hard to administer.
"Everyone here at city hall said the guidelines aren't good," Sakas said. "They're too loose. They're back in the day guidelines."
Last spring, the owners of the Black Ram sought permission to install an outdoor dining patio on the east side of the restaurant at 1414 E. Oakton St. But at least two city nuisance citations against Black Ram led Sakas -- the city's zoning administrator -- to deny their request because, he said at the time, the patio would have violated the noise section of the city zoning ordinance.
The city has since thrown out the noise citations against Black Ram.
Sakas later approved a building permit for construction of the outdoor patio when the restaurant's owners re-submitted plans to include an 8-foot tall fence and landscaping as a buffer.
When Sakas denied the original request, he said he had to "apply the common sense rule."
But proposed changes to the city code are now likely to include more specific language on decibel levels and frequency of noise, he said.
The exact parameters of an updated noise ordinance are still being crafted by city staff members, and aldermen will likely consider it in September or October, Sakas said.
Meanwhile, Black Ram manager Daniella Urdova said Monday approval of the patio couldn't have come soon enough for the business.
The patio, with a seating capacity of about 70, opened July 26, but Urdova said the business plans to install a better patio next year. She says they lost business since they weren't able to operate the patio for the entire summer.
"We got blocked by the city of Des Plaines," Urdova said. "We submitted plans in March. It took two months and they blocked us. They denied the patio in May. We fought with them for the last two months, and they realized they have no right to do that."
Before the patio was installed, residents complained about loud music reverberating from the Black Ram and loitering in the parking lot in the early morning hours. The restaurant, which closed in 2009, reopened under new ownership late last year.
One resident who lives behind the restaurant, Bob Nicioli, said he hasn't had any problems with the Black Ram since the patio opened.
"They are seeming to comply, and we hope it stays that way," Nicioli said. "Some neighbors fear it's temporary."