With Hailey in the midst of a population expansion, the town is trying to create a vibrant, urban atmosphere without disrupting the residential tranquility. That balance was called into question at a Hailey City Council meeting on Monday, May 21.
When a motion to approve a waiver of the city's noise ordinance for the annual summer series of Back Alley Parties at the Wicked Spud appeared on the council's agenda, the usually routine action became the subject of debate.
Hailey residents Ken and Ginna Lagergren spoke against approving the waiver, saying the noise level from the events was loud enough to be considered invasive throughout the neighborhood. In addition, Ken Lagergren wondered if the decibel level was damaging the hearing of pedestrians in the vicinity of the restaurant.
Hailey's noise ordinance allows for amplified music to be heard a maximum of 50 feet beyond the boundary of the property where it is being played. Two years ago, the council approved special-event applications for waivers of that ordinance.
At Monday's meeting, the council gave the Wicked Spud and the organizers of the concerts a two-week waiver starting from their first Back Alley Party on Wednesday, June 6, but stated that it will then reconsider the issue.
The owners of the bar and grill, Steve Hogan and Mike Broman, attended the meeting but did not have a chance to voice their views. However, in an interview Hogan said the event attracts hundreds of people and he has received only a few complaints.
"It seems to me we had a seamless, faultless season last year," he said. "It's 13 days out of 365. Why not just go with it?"
Heidi Albrecht, co-producer of the event, contended that it and similar events provide an important service to the town.
"The numerous live acts happening in the area bring in business, keep towns lively and provide communal, entertaining gathering places in which people can be with their neighbors and friends, often for free," Albrecht said in an interview.
Albrecht said she and her partner donated about $4,000 to valley-based non-profits in 2006, thanks to the patrons of the Back Alley Parties.
She said proceeds made by the Wicked Spud on the night of the shows are not part of the money donated to non-profits or to pay the bands. Rather, she said, that comes from raffles and independent beer sales.
"We have three to four months to make that lot, where the stage is, work," Hogan said. "The rest of the year we still have property taxes, mortgage payments and salaries to pay. We should be turning it into a positive. These concerts give back in so many different ways."
Hogan agreed that noise easily carries throughout the city, but contended that that plays a positive role in the community. He said he lives near St. Charles Catholic Church and the Hailey Elementary School, and the sound of children and Mariachi bands are a part of the community there.
"I love it. It shows the town is alive and happening," he said.