Neighbors’ noise complaints may cut into Olathe winery’s bottom line

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OLATHE, Kan. -- A local winery is waiting to learn its fate, after complaints from neighbors. On Tuesday night the city of Olathe will make a decision that could have a big impact on business for Stone Pillar Winery.

In the chill of the day, George Hoff can be found checking on his investments. Grapes that will someday make delicious bottles of wine help carry on the Hoff tradition. The Hoff family has owned the land at 11000 Woodland for 150 years.

The first vines for the winery were planted in 2007. The winery opened for sales in 2010.

“For us it’s a way of preserving our lifestyle and our heritage,” said Hoff.

He says something is threatening to take a bite out of the winery’s profit, and it has nothing to do with anything in a bottle. Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the winery’s profit comes from live music performed there. The right for the music to play on is in jeopardy. The city of Olathe first granted the winery a special use permit to allow live bands in 2012. The latest permit comes up for renewal amid concern from neighbors over noise.

“They’re trying to comply, so I have to give them credit for that,” said Ted Williams.

He purchased his home across the street many years before the winery existed. He picked the home for its beauty and serenity, and says music from the winery struck the wrong chord with him.

“On weekends in the evenings we felt maybe that our privacy or that our quietness might be intruded upon some degree,” said Williams.

While he applauds the winery for the steps that it has taken to comply, he says more can be done.

“There are some situations where the noise can still rebound, and come down here so some refinement of that I think, re-directing the speakers, directly west.

"Maybe monitoring the settings on the bass speaker,” said Williams

At the winery, Hoff shared some of the improvements he’s made to the enclosure where the live bands perform, which included wood panels that absorb more of the sound, and turning the band away from the direction of neighbors who have complained. He says it has dramatically cut the noise level.

The special use permit only sets the decibel level at 55, at the property line. A report on Olathe’s website says the winery has gone over that several times.

That’s something Hoff denies. Normal conversation is between about 60, and 65. Hoff says he has a petition of about 400 signatures of people who support, and want to see the permit renewed. A city spokesperson tells FOX 4 the planning commission plans to recommend permit renewal.