Deep River Residents Win Nuisance Lawsuit Against Wedding Venue | Zip06.com
The Superior Court of Middlesex County has ruled in favor of plaintiffs on June 10 in a ruling against the Lace Factory, a popular wedding venue located in Deep River.
A civil lawsuit was initially brought to the court by Deep River residents Robert Ghinder and Lawrence Stewart, who live in the resident neighborhood of the location of the Lace Factory. They alleged common law nuisance and violations under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) against the defendants, venue owners Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald and his wife Andea Isaacs. Hearings were held remotely before the court between November 2021 to April 2022.
According to a press release issued by Ghinder following the ruling, the defendants in the case ignored pleas by nearby households to control loud amplified music emitted from the venue that they felt exceeded appropriate decibel levels, disturbing the peace of the residential neighborhood. Ghinder and Stewart filed suit with the court on Nov. 7, 2019.
“The whole neighborhood really was disturbed by the noise emanating from the Lace Factory,” Ghinder said. “All of the neighbors were in communication with the Lace Factory to try to get them to reduce the noise.”
Ghinder said there was no intention of Stewart, neighbors of the venue, or himself in attempting to thwart the business of the Factory, and that he was supportive of the opening of the establishment.
Judge Rupal Shah, who presided over the three-year case, ordered in the ruling that the owners of the Lace Factory must comply with state nuisance law and regulations by adopting various acoustic and infrastructural methods to keep decibel levels of amplified music from encroaching upon unlawful territory. The venue must comply with the ruling by implementing these noise control moves by the end of the year, while any wedding events scheduled to take place until then are still allowed to continue.
Ghinder and Stewart were each granted a monetary award of $7,000 for damages in the ruling.
McDonald and Isaacs provided no comment on the issue and its ruling.
The Lace Factory, a popular wedding venue in the region that attracts parties in the area and those from Boston and New York, sits in the Harbor District Zone of Deep River, and sits adjacent to the Essex Train Line, and has hosted events in conjunction with the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat service. As many as 250 people can be accommodated into the interior of the venue, which holds both indoor and outdoor events. Safe Harbor Deep River park is also part of Harbor District, while regular train arrivals and departures on the Essex Line are also characterizations of the area.
According to the memorandum on the case, previous complaints towards the Lace Factory and its owners saw multiple remedial practices go into practice before the suit was filed, including using a measuring tool that would keep track of the noise levels so as to not exceed local allowable noise emission regulations that codify a maximum of 65db, according the memorandum. The defendants did admit that even after these practices went into effect, there was one wedding event in October 2019 in which music at the venue prompted Isaacs personally to call the police to intervene. Finding attempts to reduce noise level insufficient, the plaintiffs then filed suit.
In their case the plaintiffs employed what they viewed as evidence in accordance with local and state noise laws determining appropriate decibel levels that would not cause an environmental or public disturbance, and how the defendants violated them.
As part of the case, the plaintiffs invoked statues under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), classified as Title 22a under the state’s General Statutes. One of the statues plaintiffs brought forth was Sec. 22a-67, part of the Noise Pollution Control section of CEPA. State policy under this statute determines partly that excessive noise can result in a serious hazard to one’s health, and that “exposure to certain levels of noise can result in psychological, physiological, and economic damage,” to a person or persons on the receiving end of excessive noise, as quoted in the memorandum.
Of the three noise pollution control regulations cited in the argument against the defendants’ was Regs. § 22a-69-3.1, which states that, “No person shall cause or allow the emission of excessive noise beyond the boundaries of his/her Noise Zone so as to violate any provisions of these Regulations.” In assessing the citations of regulations Ghinder and Stewart made as part of invoking CEPA in their allegation, the court found that the plaintiffs did provided neither a colorable claim backed by sufficient evidence to indicate that the excessive noise emitted from the Factory caused “unreasonable pollution” or an “impairment” in public trust towards the venue. The public trust in the case refers to the ability of the venue to continue its business. That trust has not been viewed as broken according to the ruling, as evidenced by it continuing to host wedding ceremonies throughout the rest of the year.
In the absence of a viable claim backed by CEPA regulations, noise control measures were then referred to in review of the case, as both parties hired sound experts to conduct propagation studies. Both studies found similar results in noise levels coming from the indoor part of the venue, as amplified live or recorded music exceeded local noise limits by up to 85dB.
Neither of the experts were able to conduct measurements for outdoor events, according to the memorandum. The defendants’ expert recommended to them that more could be done to mitigate the sound emitted, such as repositioning of speakers sitting indoors at the venue, installing sound curtains or a band shell, and adding an additional layer of glass to each of the windows.
The court eventually ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and ordered that remedial actions to reduce noise be taken care of by the defendants. Reduction methods are now in the process of being fixed, and must be fully implemented by the defendants by Dec. 31, according to the memorandum. Emissions of amplified sound in its outdoor area after 6 p.m. on any night of the week are also banned, ruled effectively immediately by the court.
Ghinder hoped that the ruling would help return peacefulness to the Harbor Zone and its residential neighborhood.
“We just want the peaceful, quiet neighborhood back, and just be able to sit inside our house or sit on our porch and not have to listen to the boom-boom-boom of loud music coming from across the street.”