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Tanglewood residents upset by bar's noise

September 26th, 2012 8:57 am by Becky Campbell

Tanglewood residents upset by bar's noise

Homeowners in Tanglewood subdivision want their property value to stop decreasing and they want a good night’s sleep.

That was a common problem residents voiced at a community meeting with Johnson City officials Tuesday night at the Municipal and Safety Building, but fixing the problem won’t come easy.

The Tanglewood neighborhood borders the Roan Centre, which houses establishments like Electric Cowboy, Jack’s City Grill and New York, New York — all noisemakers, according to residents.

Other issues include students from Science Hill High School using the neighborhood as a shortcut to North Roan Street and others skipping class and using the neighborhood — and a hole in a fence — as a shortcut to the shopping center.

Streets in the neighborhood already have speed humps, but resident Art Daniels says it isn’t enough. He wants the bigger deterrent of speed bumps to keep traffic moving slow.

“We’re glad they’re there. I just wish they were big enough to slow people down,” Daniels said during the meeting.

But the big issue residents had was noise and light pollution from businesses in the shopping center at all hours of the night.

Frances Ponder doesn’t live in Tanglewood, but she owns a house that is leased. Her tenants complain often about the noise coming from the Electric Cowboy, particularly when employees take their smoke breaks behind the building and when they empty trash cans full of beer bottles into Dumpsters.

The music also is a problem, especially when the bar props the back door open and when the sound system’s bass is thumping.

Ponder said she’s had tenants tell her the bass is so loud it rattles the door, blinds and dishes in the kitchen cabinets.

Josh Carter called it a “shopping center that’s turned into a bar center.”

He said the owner of Electric Cowboy addressed the noise issues several years ago by beefing up the soundproofing along the back wall, but when employees open the back door, it negates the effect.

City Code Enforcement Officer Paul Robinson told the group that when the center was built in 1984, the agreed sound barrier was a row of white pine trees. It’s a fast-growing tree that soon grew so tall the foliage is 20 feet high, he said.

But because of the 1984 agreement, the city cannot force the property owner to install anything other than white pine trees, and new ones only have to be planted when one dies, he said.

It’s a frustrating situation for homeowners and they just want something done.

Tracy Costello, the day operations manager for the Electric Cowboy, also attended the meeting to hear the concerns of the bar’s back door neighbors.

She said there are some things she can address immediately, such as talking to employees about being aware of the neighborhood and not using the back for smoke breaks, but many of the issues will have to be addressed at the corporate level.

Ponder said there was an agreement with one of the corporation’s partners, who lives in Texas. That agreement kept employees from congregating behind the bar and no trash cans were emptied between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.

Ponder said it worked for a while, but when a new manager took over, the agreement was apparently forgotten.

Calls to 911 do send police officers to the site, but the noise from the sound system apparently doesn’t reach the level required to cite the business for violation of the noise ordinance.

Carter said he and his wife are trying to leave Tanglewood due to the problems with the shopping center.

“I’m leaving because of it. We’ve gone from Goody’s to a bar. When I moved there it was the only area in Johnson City I wanted to be. I hate it because it’s a beautiful part of town,” he said.

Police Chief Mark Sirois moderated the meeting and said the city will address the citizens concerns with the business owners and meet with residents again with a report.

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