Patience is wearing thin among some of The Machine Shop’s critics.
Three Langley residents complained at the Langley City Council’s monthly meeting on Tuesday night that the venue is consistently overstepping city rules governing live amplified music events.
Barbara Small, Susan Scott and Micky Sarkis, members of the Langley Association of Neighbors Downtown (LAND), claimed rock bands are playing over their allotted three-hour time window of 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday nights, attendees are parking on private property, an event was held without a permit on Feb. 3 and the volume of the music is disruptive for nearby residents.
They also said that there is no accountability for these alleged nuisances and that rules are not being enforced even if they are broken. When police were called, nothing was done about it, they said.
The owner of the The Machine Shop and city officials say the rules are not being violated, but the city council is reviewing the issue at an upcoming meeting.
Sarkis, who said she was representing LAND at the council meeting while Small and Scott were speaking as private citizens, also claimed there’s been underage drinking. She said she’s both seen it personally and heard it secondhand from friends who have also witnessed it.
“The place is overfilled with kids,” Sarkis said at the meeting. “There’s drinking and partying in the back. There’s parking randomly everywhere. I know you’re home and comfortable and have a great thing, but imagine being right next to it and having to deal with this every time there’s a permit or when he has done it without a permit, which he has done recently.”
It’s a new series of complaints in an issue that dates back to 2016 when bands started playing live amplified music at The Machine Shop.
In June 2017, the city council approved owner Tim Leonard’s request to increase the maximum number of live amplified music events allowed annually in the city from six to 12.
City code requires applicants in “neighborhood business zones” to acquire special event permits before live amplified music can be played. Demonstrating satisfactory attention to noise impacts with adjacent residential properties is also required.
Leonard typically applies for one every month.
The decision drew criticism from members of LAND, who claimed the music disrupted their home lives and diminished their property values. They objected to the location of the venue and its proximity to neighborhoods.
The venue is located on Second Street near St. Hubert Catholic Church. Across the street are several homes, including those belonging to Scott and Small.
Both are frustrated that problems are still happening and that a satisfactory arrangement has not been made with Leonard, as well as the city. They also claimed Leonard responded negatively to their request to turn the music down at one event.
“In really good faith, since summer of 2016, we’ve been doing our best to work with him and the city on how to get along,” Scott said. “…I’m sure he doesn’t really like being controlled. I don’t really like dealing with his business. I’m truly trying my best to protect my own peace and quiet in my home.”
Sarkis, who lives on Saratoga Road, said she wants the city council and city staff to do more.
“We’re kind of talking to the wall here as residents,” Sarkis said. “We keep bringing it up and nothing gets taken care of.
She supports The Machine Shop’s mission of providing live music but wants it to be held somewhere more suitable for the noise.
Leonard addressed several of the most recent complaints in an interview Thursday morning. He said he was “shocked” and “saddened” about the accusations.
He said he has seen underage drinking once or twice in the past year and a half, but intervened immediately and asked whoever was doing it to leave.
“Kids will be kids,” Leonard said.
He does not condone underage drinking, nor does he sell alcoholic beverages at The Machine Shop. He also urged Sarkis to inform him if she witnesses it again.
“If she sees that, I’d say call me or call the police,” Leonard said. “Just don’t drive by and use it as mud to sling back at me. Say something. I’m hyper vigilant about that.”
Leonard also said that attendees have permission to park on JR Fulton’s property across the street from the venue in an arrangement approved by Fulton.
Langley Police Chief David Marks responded to a noise complaint at a previous event, but found The Machine Shop was not in violation of any city code, according to Leonard.
Leonard said one night, a band went over its time by three minutes. He felt Small’s complaint that night was nitpicky. He said it wasn’t as if the band was still playing 20 minutes after the 10 p.m. deadline.
He conceded that he did not submit a special event permit application for an amplified music event held at The Machine Shop on Feb. 3.
“It was a scheduling oversight on my part,” Leonard said.
The Langley City Council did not discuss the topic but will at its March 5 meeting. The council is waiting for feedback from the city’s attorney, Kenyon Disend, who is examining special event permit rules and potential conflicts with Langley’s municipal code.
Chapter 18.22 prohibits music from being played past 11 p.m. on Saturday nights, when
The Machine Shop typically holds events.
Callison believes Kenyon Disend will rule in favor of The Machine Shop primarily on the grounds that it is not in the wrong.
“It would seem to me that it would prevail,” Callison said. “It’s a special circumstance. He applies for it.
Even under amplified music special permits, he’s allowed to operate until 11 p.m. He normally cuts the music off at 10 p.m.”
City Councilwoman Dominique Emerson stood outside The Machine Shop at one its previous events to see for herself whether LAND’s complaints had merit.
“It was very loud,” Emerson said.
A window was opened by one of the attendees by accident, Leonard said at a previous council meeting, and the noise spilled out. He closed it when he discovered the mishap.
Emerson believes Leonard has made a strong effort to abide by city code and the special permit rules. She agrees with Callison that Kenyon Disend will likely find the events to be within legal boundaries.
City Councilman Bruce Allen echoed her sentiments. He lives on First Street behind The Machine Shop and said he has never heard the noise himself, nor have his neighbors.
“I personally don’t have a big problem with it,” Allen said.
Whether the city should stop giving The Machine Shop special events permits merits at least some discussion, Emerson said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the nature of an event at The Machine Shop on Feb. 3. It was an amplified music event.