The restored Merrimon-Wynne house at 500 N. Blount St. is widely considered a Raleigh success story, a historic building infusing new life into an old neighborhood. But many neighbors don't see it that way.
At a City Council hearing last week, Jodi Heyens, who owns the house, tried to persuade City Council members to grant her a two-year permit that would allow her to feature live outdoor music in the evenings at wedding events she hosts there.
However, neighbors say Heyens has been illegally hosting outdoor bands since the business opened last winter. Twenty-six people signed a petition asking the Council to deny Heyens the permit.
"Bands have performed as loudly as at City Oaks Fest, or Battle of the Bands downtown," said Liisa Ogburn, who lives on Person Street, across from the Merrimon-Wynne house. "I have had to wear headphones in my own house. There is no escape."
Neighbors say they have called or texted Heyens with noise complaints more than 20 times, and have sent dozens of emails between January and June of this year. However, Raleigh police records show no noise complaints associated with the Merrimon-Wynne house since January.
"It is really disturbing to me that you've had all these outdoor amplified events without any city permits and I don't hear any sense of regret or remorse," City Council member Russ Stephenson told Heyens. "It's hard for me to imagine that you're ever going to be able to do something that is compatible with the residential neighbors around you."
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she was sympathetic to both sides, and proposed allowing Heyens to operate for six months. Council unanimously passed the motion.
"We're trying to find a balance here. We don't want her to have to shut her business down but we understand there are concerns," McFarlane said.
She told Heyens to come up with a solution that is respectful of the neighbors.
In 2008, the historic, 4,800 square-foot house was moved from its original location across the street from Peace College to the corner of Blount and Polk streets.
The house was built in 1876 and served as the home of a judge and a U.S. senator before it was deeded to Peace College in 1919. It has also been used for student dorms and state offices.
Heyens purchased the home and the lot next door for nearly $530,000 in June 2013. After restoring the house, Heyens opened it as an events venue last winter.
Heyens told the Council she considered applying for an Outdoor Amplified Entertainment permit but that the permitting process was delayed last November.
She consulted with two other nearby entertainment venues—Tucker House and Haywood Hall—about their policies. According to city officials, these venues do not have outdoor music permits.
"Based on that precedent, we moved forward with the events we had scheduled," Heyens said.
Live music events have been and will continue to be limited to weekend nights, to end by 11 p.m. She said she is trying to minimize noise levels, including turning speakers away from residences and maintaining trees along her property line.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Come on, feel the noise."