By Frank Lewis
The Daily Times is in receipt of a letter from Portsmouth attorney Stephen Rodeheffer to the engineering department of the city of Portsmouth on behalf of downtown businessman Terry Ockerman, owner and operator of The Lofts, concerning plans by Columbia Music Arena owner Christine Scott to put a permanent roof over the open-air arena to the back of that building.
The facility has been embroiled in a controversy since being rebuilt following a fire. The controversy came about when Ockerman and some others who either live nearby or who operate businesses in the vicinity of the arena complained about the level of noise produced by bands performing at the facility.
A lawsuit against the owners was filed and eventually the Scott’s (Christine and her husband Lee) chose to, according to Lee Scott at Monday’s Portsmouth City Council meeting, “take the high road,” and come to council, and make their intentions known to use the city’s revolving loan fund to put a permanent roof on the building.
The letter from Rodeheffer calls attention to a study done by a sound expert from Cincinnati, Mr. Richard Crawford, AIA, CIC, CEM of Creative Code Consulting and Design, LLC, that during concerts the noise levels coming from the Columbia were often 500 times the ambient noise level in the area.
The letter then goes on to say – “During the litigation, Mr. Lee Scott … and his partner, current mayor and Fourth Ward Councilman, Jim Kalb, testified under oath that they were of the opinion that because the plans for the open air arena were approved by your (engineering) office that they had an unqualified right to create as much noise as they wished notwithstanding the fact that the music hall was in close proximity to the residences of a number of people.”
The letter from Rodeheffer asks the engineering department to understand the only way to assure that the proposed improvements will allow the anticipated use of the Columbia to be in compliance with an order by Judge Leonard F. Holzapfel that the operators of the arena shall conduct any such operation with any existing applicable sound ordinances of the city of Portsmouth, is to require the owners to have an acoustics expert review the drawings and weigh in on their viability as to sound control.
Scott said he had 12 inches of foam insulation installed throughout the entire building, new heating and air conditioning, sprinkler system and other improvements to attempt to comply.
Scott also told council that Kalb is no longer affiliated with the Columbia.
“We believe that a properly constructed and operated music arena in downtown Portsmouth can be a positive addition to the area,” Rodeheffer said in his letter. “However, we also believe that unless there is sufficient oversight by your agency regarding the plans for the upcoming work on the Columbia, the downtown residents will once again find their homes invaded by unwanted noise both day and night.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.