The Aug. 3 meeting of the Baldwinsville Board of Trustees was unusually packed. Several residents attended the meeting to ask the board to reconsider the decibel limit on performances at Paper Mill Island, which has hosted few major musical acts in the last two years.
Jonathan Ream, a B’ville resident of four years, created an online petition asking the village of Baldwinsville to do the following:
After 95X Fest in June 2014, villagers complained about the noise and vulgar language from the bands.
“There were no problems with cleanup, but we gave them a board level range of 90 to 100 decibels with a spike of 105 and the report was they were consistently above 100 decibels,” Mayor Dick Clarke said in 2014.
The village code says everyday noise must be below 70 decibels between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and below 60 decibels from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. “when measured at the adjoining property line nearest the sound source.”
Between the decibel restriction and the rise of other local music venues like the Lakeview Amphitheater in Geddes and Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard in LaFayette, major musical acts have all but disappeared from Paper Mill Island. Rocker Andrew McMahon moved his Aug. 1 show from Paper Mill Island to Sharkey’s in Liverpool. The venue change was “to better accommodate patrons,” according to promoter Eric Binion.
Ream presented the board with his petition, which has more than 600 signatures. He also read a handful of online comments from those who signed the petition. (See sidebar infographic.)
Ream offered his own comments as well.
“One of the reasons I moved here was because I liked the walkability, and I loved the fact that there was a music venue I could walk to from my house,” he said. “Even though maybe we disagree on Paper Mill Island in the way it’s being used today, I do want to take the chance to thank everyone on the board and the mayor. I know it’s a thankless job sometimes, and I wanted to sincerely thank you for all you do.”
Clarke told Syracuse.com that the village needs to “reinvent” the island, perhaps by hosting more events like last month’s Baldwinsville Canal Arts Festival, flea markets and the annual 93Q Summer Jam, a pop festival seen as more family-friendly than 95X Fest.
“You’re the only person in two years that has contacted me about what’s happening at the island,” Clark told Ream.
According to Ream, residents may not be voicing their thoughts directly to the village but are commenting on Facebook about the use of Paper Mill Island.
Ream referenced Clark’s quote to Syracuse.com that people are not “clamoring for entertainment” on the island and “don’t feel like they’re missing out.”
“Yes, we do feel that we’re missing out,” said another resident, Vickie Freyleue.
Freyleue said the island sits “silent and dark” without major concerts and suggested the village put together a task force to examine the use of the island.
“If you want this town to die, take away the fun, take away the music,” she said.
Not everyone at the meeting was in favor of feeling the noise.
John Collar, owner of the B’ville Pickle on West Genesee Street and a former employee of the village, said he remembered cleaning up after big concerts on the island. Collar said large crowds of people plus alcohol have led to fights in which police intervention was needed.
“The nationally known tour bands that used to stay at the Red Mill Inn, I know, used to trash the rooms,” Collar said. “It’s not all fun and games and a good time — it’s a mess there afterwards.”
Collar added that concerts have not helped his business.
“Not once has anybody come in and bought sandwiches and said, ‘We’re going to go to a concert,’” Collar said. “Tuesday nights, when they’re free, yes. None of the merchants in Baldwinsville get anything out of these concerts.”
There was crosstalk between Collar and other members of the audience who disagreed with him.
Dennis Sick, owner of Mohegan Manor, said businesses compete with Friday and Saturday evening concerts for parking in the village.
“It neutralizes all the businesses’ parking spots,” he said. “People who come to Baldwinsville for a non-concert reason … find no parking spot and move on to Route 31. And next time they think of coming to Baldwinsville, they don’t because they’re afraid [of not finding parking.”
Sick said weekend afternoons would be a more appropriate time for events on the island, citing similar events in Skaneateles.
“A Friday or Saturday night event becomes a whole other entity,” Sick said. “It actually hurts all the restaurants in town.”
Collar said the amphitheater could be used for plays, craft shows and car shows. Sick suggested the village reduce the island use fee to make it more accessible to such events. Clarke said the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild contacted him about possibly holding a performance there.
“A lot of what you said, we have said to each other,” Clarke told the crowd. “We need to look at ways to get people back on the island.”
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.