Stone Pillar Vineyard & Winery is facing some heat after being struck with code violations and noise complaints.
At its meeting Tuesday evening, the Olathe City Council approved a one-year special use permit for the family-owned establishment to hold summer concerts, but it came with stipulations.
The popular winery is only allowed to feature amplified music on Friday evenings, with acoustic performances being permitted Saturdays and Sundays. It also has to follow a series of public safety recommendations for the property.
Recently, the fire and building codes departments have been working with the Hoff family to correct the violations, which included impermissibly converting an open shelter into an enclosed banquet hall.
Three years ago, when the owners applied to build the structure, it was recorded by the city as being a utility tractor shed. Since then, it has been converted for other uses, such as bands and music.
The city then became aware that the owners installed walls that have enclosed the structure, changing the nature of it from an outdoor structure to an indoor structure, introducing several safety issues.
Some of the changes that need to be made include providing a dedicated 20-foot-wide emergency vehicle access lane to each structure on the property, and updating electrical work.
Olathe Fire Chief Jeff DeGraffenreid told the council he expects the winery to be in compliance with all the recommendations by July 1.
The city is permitting the winery to continue using the structure as it makes those changes, since DeGraffenreid does not think it presents an immediate danger to life.
Owner Tom Hoff told the council the winery was making significant progress on those changes and he hopes the new walls will put an end to the noise complaints once and for all.
“We’re just trying to make a living and draw people to Olathe,” he said. “We’re not trying to aggravate the neighbors.”
It was the noise issue that drew concern and criticism from the council and residents alike.
In March 2012, the council approved a special use permit for the owners to hold summer concerts on weekends. Several stipulations were attached to the permit to address noise complaints at the time.
The owners had to face speakers to the south or west, away from the houses to the north. The owners also were required to take decibel readings at the north property line during each concert and provide those readings to city staff. The decibel readings had to be below 55 decibels, which is required by the Olathe Municipal Code.
To comply, the owners provided city staff with videos showing the noise decibel readings taken for each concert.
City staff told the council that the majority of the readings were below 55 decibels.
Removable walls were installed on the open shelter, where the bands perform, to absorb noise.
But despite the owners’ attempts to muffle the sound, nearby residents still made noise complaints.
Ken Clark, who lives 900 feet away from the winery, told the council he is unhappy with the sound vibrations he hears coming from the property.
“When a car goes by and you hear the ‘boom, boom, boom’ from its stereo, it goes away in five seconds,” he said. “But when that booming goes on for hours, it’s unacceptable. It’s been four years and I’m getting tired of it.”
One of his neighbors, Laura Lombardi, agreed.
“I feel like people don’t believe us, but it’s very real,” she said. “The disrespect is so intense. We’re at our wit’s end and we don’t know what to do.”
Councilwoman Marge Vogt found the noise complaints worrisome.
“There have been enough years now,” she said. “If noise is still an issue, we need to deal with it. I want to see a business be successful, but we need them to follow the rules and regulations.”
Councilman Jim Randall agreed. He told the Hoff family that he believed the winery was a great asset to the community, but the noise issue and code violations needed to be fixed as soon as possible.