When the historic Merrimon-Wynne House reopened in January as a modern event venue, it quickly drew notice from brides and grooms eager to tie the knot near downtown.
Engaged couples and other party hosts booked dozens of events at the house on North Blount Street before owner Jodi Heyens Strenkowski even began advertising. Saturday slots for 2014 were snatched up quicker than a microphone from a drunk best man.
Rave reviews and awards soon followed for the house’s lovingly restored features, grounds and tented patio.
But it turns out the house’s owners have been missing one critical piece of paperwork all along: a special-use permit for outdoor amplified entertainment.
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A group of neighbors tired of booming bass lines and yet another rendition of “I Will Survive” don’t think the city should grant the permit now that an application is in.
Without the permit, Strenkowski said at a Raleigh City Council hearing last week, she will have to shut down her business.
“The Merrimon-Wynne House is very much a labor of love for me. I’ve worked tirelessly on it, and I’ve tried very, very hard to work with the neighbors,” she said. “I know that if we do not get this permit I will have to shut down my business and I will have to sell.”
The house was built in the 1870s and was moved from its original location on North Wilmington Street to the corner of Blount and Polk streets in 2008. Strenkowski bought the then-vacant house and a lot next door in 2013.
It wasn’t entirely clear at the hearing why Strenkowski hadn’t sought a permit earlier, though she said earlier guidance from similar venues and the city had suggested she didn’t need it.
At a city council hearing last week about whether to award the permit, some nearby residents said the outdoor music coming from the Merrimon-Wynne House has been disruptive many times.
“I want to be clear that we are not simply cranks and that our frustration does not simply stem from one or two occurrences,” said Liisa Ogburn, who lives nearby. She presented to the council a petition signed by 26 neighbors who oppose the permit.
Ian Shields, another neighbor, said he is concerned about how the noise from the house will affect performances at Burning Coal Theatre Company. At a recent show he had difficulty hearing over the noise from the house.
“The noise was intrusive enough, even through the brick wall of the theater, that it was very difficult to hear the play or concentrate on what was going on,” he said.
Some other neighbors commented in favor of the permit, saying the music was not a problem.
“It does not disturb us. We know it’s there, but we’re able to carry on with our lives normally,” said Nancy Brooks, who lives next door to the house.
The council ultimately voted for a six-month permit rather than the requested two years to see if Strenkowsi can find a way to block more of the noise.
“We’re trying to find a balance here,” said Mayor Nancy McFarlane.
Councilman Bonner Gaylord said it’s imperative a technical solution be found.
“I hope that the applicant here can see that this is not working for the neighborhood. And if it doesn’t work for the neighborhood, it doesn’t work for the council,” he said.
Ogburn said the renovation of Merrimon-Wynne is admirable and she wants to see it succeed – as long as it doesn’t infringe on her family’s right to enjoy the peace and quiet of her home.
“After a long day, the last thing we want to come home to is a live, amplified band performing across the street until 11 pm. We can hear it throughout our house. We sincerely hope that Ms. Heyens will be able to develop a way to host weddings and other events, while also doing so within the limits of Raleigh’s Noise Ordinances,” she wrote in an email.