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Planning Commission Votes To Require Permits For Outdoor Entertainment; Enforce Noise Rules

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CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend Town Council Amend Sec. 12.2 of the Zoning Ordinance to address standards for Outdoor Entertainment at Eating and Drinking Establishments.
According to Town Senior Planner Jeremy Hardison, "Staff is requesting to review the condition that requires eating and drinking establishments to acquire a conditional use permit if outdoor entertainment is proposed in certain zoning districts.  In 2008 the Town of Carolina Beach adopted a text amendment to define and categorize all types of eating and drinking establishments.  As a result new restaurants or expansions to existing restaurants may be permitted by right, although there are certain criteria that trigger a conditional use permit."
He explaned, "One of the requirements is, if the establishment makes available areas for outdoor entertainment the eating and drinking establishment will require conditional use permit review except in the Central Business District (CBD). There are a couple of establishments outside the CBD that time to time have outside music. This has led to complaints for establishments in the Mixed Use (MX) district that are closer to residential districts than other establishments that are located in Highway Business District, that do not appear to have a negative impact on the surrounding areas."
Hardison explained "Outdoor Entertainment Area" is defined as an exterior space dedicated to accessory entertainment uses to include: dance floors, stages, live performances, disc-jockey areas, and/or any other similar on-site amusement activities.
Hardison explained, "If no outdoor entertainment area is proposed, the eating and drinking establishment may still obtain a special event permit which would allow for an outdoor event.  The special event permit is designed for limited occurrences where each permit must be approved by the Town’s Event Coordinator and Department
Heads. The Special Event Ordinance is currently being reviewed and will be presented to the Commission in the future."
He said the Planning Department recommends amending the Highway Business (HB) zoning district to allow for eating and drinking establishment by right that offer outdoor entertainment areas. In other zoning districts where eating and drinking establishments are allowed a CUP will be required if outdoor entertainment is proposed except in the CBD.
For a number of months the Town has received complaints from residents living in the Carolina Sands subdivision concerning outdoor events at Uncle Vinnie's Restaurant and the adjacent Twisted Lime restaurant.
Numerous outdoor events were held this summer with outdoor entertainment including bands playing music.
That led to residents complaining about excessive noise and patrons parking along residential streets due to lack of parking at the two businesses during those events.
Commissioner Tammy Hansen said there are numerous establishments throughout Town that play loud music until the late hours and said, "Rather than make people come and buy more permits, can we not do something about the volume level that is allowed. Seems to me that if you turn it down a little bit the complaints are going to stop a little bit. They don't have to play so extremely loud."
Hansen said locations like the Hoplite Restaurant and Last Resort Bar have small areas for entertainment and perhaps the music doesn't need to be as loud.
She said at night she can hear music from her deck at home and doesn't even need to turn on the stereo.
Chairman Greg Reynolds said it's a resort Town and his son was in town and staid at a local establishment because of the outdoor music and quality of the establishment.
He said, "What is outside?" and does that include a roof and wall, no windows.
Hardison said the Police Department is reviewing the noise ordinance and may make changes in the near future.
Reynolds said the problem is the noise ordinance can't be measured with a $49 sound meter, it takes more accurate means of measurement.
Commissioner LeAnn Pierce said she thinks the issue really concerns the noise ordinance.
Commissioner Hansen said when people buy land a block from Lake Park Blvd, "They know they are going to hear music."
Hardison said the amendment would apply to entertainment on a deck, but not in a parking lot.
That would require a special event permit. Currently businesses can obtain up to 30 special event permits a year.
Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin said the special
event ordinance will be brought to the Planning Commission at their December meeting.
Commissioner Pierce said, "For instance, Twisted Lime, Uncle Vinnie's, would have to come and get a conditional use permit?"
Hardison said that's correct.
Commissioner Hansen said block parties held at Uncle Vinnie's are covered under a special event permit which is separate from the amendment they were considering.
Vice Chairman Pierce made a motion to adopt the text amendment with staff recommendations to add highway business zoning district by right for the outdoor entertainment areas and the CUP requirements
for all other proposed establishments and it is consistent with the 2007 Land Use Plan. Commissioner Cottrell seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously (6-0).