As a long-time resident and landlord in Bangor, I was glad to see that all of the city council candidates seem to understand the need for working on the sound issues associated with the Waterfront Concerts. It’s important not to get apparent short-term gains confused with the current and long-term quality of life for residents and, inevitably, the health of the overall community.
I wanted to find out what my residential tenants, all in Bangor, thought about the issue, so I did a brief survey. I sent out 45 emails and received 20 responses. (Mid-August is a time of transition, or I believe I would have received more.) Interestingly, I did not find a difference in opinion based on age, which has been a theory discussed by the public.
Most everyone, even those who were directly affected by the sound, as I am on Broadway Park (loudly at 1.5 miles away), don’t want the concerts to disappear. Some enjoy the vibrancy it lends to the community, and others pick and choose the music that they open their windows to listen to. This is especially true of people who have chosen to live downtown, where the action is.
However, several of my tenants who selected their apartments based on an expectation of quiet living had to close their windows and keep a fan running to block out sound. This is particularly difficult to do if you’re studying in a third-floor apartment.
Most respondents, including those who enjoyed the concerts, believed that something should be done about the sound, and there were several good suggestions: Limit the number of concerts to 20; have concerts on work nights end no later than 10 p.m. and perhaps select music and other entertainment that is potentially not as loud; have a decibel limit; bite the bullet and “construct a sound wall” that curtails the noise in the rest of the city; restrict business-day sound tests that can be disturbing and potentially damaging to downtown professional businesses.
Several of my respondents also mentioned the increased loitering and trash along the entertainment corridor when the concerts are in session, as well as the obstruction of the waterfront view caused by the continuous use of the tarps.
The time for these concerns to be addressed is in the upcoming contract renewal. The city is, in effect, the landlord in this situation and needs to work on a solution and a contract that demonstrates a long-term vision for the community. That includes weighing the actual (versus perceived) long-term pros and cons.
When does vibrancy turn into a carnival? Where’s the balance between short-term benefits for restaurants, hotels and retailers, and long-term quality of life for residents and businesses?
It looks like the city as well as the candidates are aware that you can’t have a healthy, vibrant community without a solid, satisfied residential base. We don’t want the entertainment corridor that is mentioned with such pride and enthusiasm to become an area where people don’t want to live.
Suzanne Kelly, a French Street resident, is owner of Kelly Realty Management in Bangor.