WEST STOCKBRIDGE — The future of The Foundry’s entertainment license will be revisited next Monday when the Planning Committee meets for the fourth time to consider an application that has divided the community.
Chief Executive Dana Bixby said Monday’s meeting may not be the last. “I’m hoping to come up with a plan to make a decision, but I don’t really know if we’ll be able to,” she said by phone Tuesday, a day after her panel held a three-hour meeting on the motion had which mainly focused on the volume of the venue.
The Foundry, a performing arts venue on Harris Street, has been trying to renew its license since October 3. An opponent, Truc Nguyen, owner of Truc Orient Express, says certain performances, particularly those with amplified bass and drums, are excessively loud and damaging.
Local residents have defended both companies and called for a compromise.
Discussions at Monday’s third hearing focused on how to calculate ambient noise and how much noise is too much.
About 35 people attended, with 21 others attending via Zoom. After three hours of sometimes heated discussions, including hostilities towards the planning committee, the hearing was adjourned. It will continue Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Calculate ambient noise
To back up her claims that she was a good neighbor, Amy Brentano, owner of The Foundry, brought sound engineer Ian Stewart to the hearing.
Steward explained that on the morning of November 13 he tested the Harris Street ambient noise at The Foundry’s property line. He said he used a calculation that captures more low-frequency frequencies like bass. According to Stewart, the ambient noise outside that Sunday morning was 60 decibels.
Stewart then set about calculating how music changes sound levels. For the test, he performed the song “Pneuma” by progressive metal band Tool, which Stewart says doesn’t reflect most performances at The Foundry. “When we did the test, we played the music at a level that we found to be … as loud as it gets indoors,” he said.
At The Foundry, noise levels ranged from 90 to 102 decibels during testing. Noise levels outside peaked at 73 decibels, he said, or 13 decibels above the ambient level he measured on the street.
“It sits well among many others [towns’ regulations]. For example, if you look at Great Barrington. Their noise ordinance has a maximum increase of 20 decibels,” Stewart told the board.
Several board members disputed Stewart’s methodology. Bixby, the chairman, and Gunnar Gudmundson said Stewart should have eliminated noise spikes to avoid creating artificially high readings of outdoor ambient noise.
Other Board members argued that measurements should be taken over a longer period of time to get more accurate readings.
Later asked by The Eagle, Bixby said better measurement of sound levels could be useful. “I would hope to get better measurements of ambient noise. I’m not sure if it’s important to the decision, but it might help.”
Nguyen questioned whether the quoted measurements are meaningful — and whether they reflect what she hears in her home and restaurant. “If you know where we are and where our property is, it sinks in,” she said of the site. “The people at TurnPark [Art Space] say they hear nothing. You are above what happens in this little fishbowl.”
The art space is located at 2 Moscow Road, about 400 feet from The Foundry.
Bixby said Tuesday she is committed to ensuring the board makes a fair decision. “We really strive for fairness and balance for special permit applicants and for residents. We are determined and working to achieve this,” she said.