A solution to nightclub noise | Editorial

The siting of the Element nightclub on Bayshore Drive across a large condominium complex occupied mostly by the elderly was always a head-scratcher. The conditional use permit for the late-night establishment was granted by the prior administration and council, and the present city leaders have had to deal with the fallout.

A number of stipulations were included in the conditional use permit, and to his credit the Element’s owner has followed them all. The ambiance of the nightclub has even changed, from a hard-driving dance hall to a slightly more subdued gambling, drinking and dancing establishment.

Still, nothing has soothed the neighbors who complain not so much about the operation of the nightclub itself, but of the noisy patrons who leave in the wee hours of the morning in a cacophony of yelling and loud laughter, with the occasional fight and rare gunshot thrown in. According to testimony at a recent hearing to review operations at the Element, neighbors living in the condos were primarily concerned about noise emanating from the parking lot between 1 a.m. and closing time at 2 a.m.

Residents have purchased noise canceling machines, closed their windows on warm, stuffy nights, and no doubt resorted to ear plugs, but nothing solves the problem.

Oak Harbor police keep a close eye on the proceedings but can’t arrest a single person in a noisy crowd for violating the noise ordinance. It’s too hard to prove who’s responsible, according to Police Chief Rick Wallace. What would reduce noise is the physical presence of a police office and cruiser in the parking lot as people leave the nightclub. There’s nothing more sobering than a confronting a police officer when leaving a drinking establishment.

An officer and cruiser should be placed smack dab in the middle of the Element’s parking lot every weekend night around closing time for a while. Patrons will quickly get the message, and then it can be done only occasionally as a reminder.

The cost should be shared by the nightclub owner, whose establishment causes the problem, and the city, which never should have allowed such a use in a location so close to a residential complex and city park. The residents have suffered enough. It’s time for the city to take strong action to restore peace and quiet to the community, even if it costs some money.


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