Portsmouth council renews noise ordinance variance for Bill’s Sales

Extends relief to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays

EastBayRI.com ·

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council Monday voted 6-1 to renew a variance to the noise ordinance that it had granted last year to Bill’s Sales at 1960 East Main Road, and to extend the relief for an additional 30 minutes on Saturdays.

The business, which has existed for more than 40 years, is primarily known for selling firewood which is cut onsite. 

In October 2016, the previous council voted to grant the business a variance to the noise ordinance, allowing it generate up to 75 decibels of noise at the residential property line from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The variance does not apply on Sundays or on federal holidays. 

That relief was granted for a one-year period. The business came back Monday to renew the variance and to ask that the relief be extended to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The council agreed to “split the difference” by extending the variance to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

The variance was renewed over the objections of Tarney Waring, a neighbor whose home abuts the business at 30 Crossing Court to the west. 

Mr. Waring has repeatedly complained about noise and odors coming from the business, and has made several complaints to police over the past several years.

When Council President Keith Hamilton asked Bill’s Sales attorney Adam Thayer if he would be willing to sit down with Mr. Waring to air out their differences, the lawyer replied, “That ship has long since sailed.”

Mr. Thayer said the business has already spent thousands of dollars to mitigate the noise problem and has moved its kiln to a different area. In addition, Mr. Waring was given business owner Bob Lantz’s cell phone number and urged to call him whenever there was a problem, he said.

Mr. Thayer added, “There’s only been one person — one — in this entire process … who has said a bad word about Bill’s Sales: Mr. Waring.”

‘One-sided’ hearing

Mr. Waring countered that he didn’t believe the town did a proper review before granting the business the variance last year, calling the earlier hearing “one-sided.” He said he didn’t want to call Mr. Lantz’s cell phone number in the middle of the night because that would amount to harassment.

“Who’s going to call somebody at 2 o’clock at night?” he asked.

“I do feel your pain,” Mr. Hamilton told Mr. Waring, noting that people who live near Route 24 are often bothered by construction noise and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Local resident Judi Staven said the council needs to be more cognizant of abutting neighbors’ concerns before it grants variances to the noise ordinance.

“This sounds like a constant noise issue. That would drive me crazy,” Ms. Staven said, adding that the issue could potentially lower property values of homes near the business.

Paul Kesson was the sole council member who voted against renewing the variance.


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