The Elk Grove Planning Commission on Feb. 7 approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the Sheldon Inn Restaurant & Bar to operate an outdoor events center with amplified music.
With Commission Chair Frank Maita having recused himself from this agenda item due to his previous business dealings with the Sheldon Inn, the commission voted, 3-1, to approve the permit.
The venue, which was previously run through a temporary use permit, is annually permitted to present no more than 100 events from Monday through Thursday, and Friday through Sunday events when scheduled.
Any event is required to begin no earlier than 10 a.m. and conclude prior to 10 p.m.
The venue normally accommodates up to 240 people. However, through the permit, the establishment is also allowed to host as many as 350 attendees five times per year on weekends.
Efforts to obtain a conditional use permit for Sheldon Inn’s outdoor events center began about a year ago. Last March, the commission first heard the business’s request for a CUP.
After listening to public testimony, which included both support and complaints on the matter, the commission voted at that meeting to recommend a continuance of the project to a date uncertain. During that meeting, two public speakers suggested that limits be placed on the number of days and hours that the venue could be operated.
During their temporary use permit period last year, the Sheldon Inn’s outdoor venue used amplified sound, which underwent tests from separate, nearby locations.
The city’s code enforcement tests focused on noise levels, as well as traffic, parking and attendance, during nine events at the venue from April to November.
No traffic, parking and attendance issues were documented during those TUP studies.
While monitoring sound during the venue’s Aug. 25 event, code enforcement measured at levels that exceeded the acceptable base sound level of 50 decibels at one sensitive receptor site. However, those measurements did not violate code allowances for cumulative intrusive sound permitted through the city’s municipal code.
Additionally, nearby neighbors did not issue any noise related complaints regarding the August event.
Shane Diller, the city’s assistant development services director, noted at the Feb. 7 meeting that only two of the noise complaints reviewed by the city’s code enforcement were found to be directly associated with the Sheldon Inn, and came from one residence.
“The two formal complaints that came in were at that distance – 1,300 (feet to) 1,400 feet away,” he said.
Multiple outreach programs were performed in relation to sound complaints. Two of those programs were conducted by the city.
During the commission’s deliberation on the CUP request, Kevin Spease and Andrew Shuck were the first commissioners to express their approval.
Shuck said that approving the permit would “not make everyone happy.” He said that he was appreciative of the applicant’s willingness to work with the city’s staff on this issue.
Shuck also supported the possibility of the City Council reviewing the city’s sound ordinance.
“I will still say that we push along with thought of council having that discussion with regards to the decibels in the code,” he said.
George Murphey was the lone commissioner who voted against approving the conditional use permit. He stated that after listening to concerns of neighbors, he had difficulty supporting the CUP request.
“I wish we could come up with a better conclusion and we haven’t and I’m not satisfied,” Murphey said.
With the Sheldon Inn needing three votes from the commission to receive the permit, the deciding vote came from Vice Chair Mackenzie Wieser.
Following the meeting, Christian Andersen, project agent for the Sheldon Inn’s outdoor venue, said that the business intends to move forward with its outdoor events as a good neighbor.
“We did everything on our side to be a good neighbor to accommodate the complaints and we moved through all the legal channels, the proper channels, and with a lot of effort and working with city closely, we think we are set up to be a good neighbor and provide a great service for the community,” he said.
Bill Myers, chair of the Sheldon Community Association, wrote a letter in opposition to the commission’s approval of the permit.
Myers stated that his group does not object to the general operation of the business, but is concerned with the venue’s use of amplified sound. He referred to that practice as one that emits “noxious noise pollution.”
“The problem is not measurement of the sound, but an inadequate legal standard,” he said. “We observe that the city noise standards are set at a level that is still too loud to dampen amplified sound to the point it would no longer be a nuisance to dozens of nearby residences of the Sheldon Inn venue at question.
“Declaring the sound level legal does not address the problem of it being a public nuisance.”