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Amphitheater developer looks to awaited final vote

Posted By: The Toledo Blade on November 14, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.


Weeks out from a vote on the proposed Waterville amphitheater project, developer Hunter Brucks is resolved to see the project through until the end.

City council’s last meeting on Oct. 26 saw a quasi-judicial hearing in which lawyers for Mr. Brucks’ applicant group presented evidence backing up their case for why an amphitheater should be built off of Pray Boulevard and Waterville Swanton Road near the Mill Creek subdivision.

Council ultimately decided that they need more time to consider their decision, postponing the vote on the matter until Nov. 28.

“If the council feels they really need to do more due diligence and really need to study what was presented [at the meeting], then I can’t argue with that,” Mr. Brucks said. “We had five experts speak and we gave countless documents.”

Mr. Brucks’ legal team, led by W. David Arnold of Robison, Curphey, & O’Connell, presented architects, landscapers, and also testimony from an acoustician. This last was among the most noteworthy testimony of the night as sound levels are one of the chief complaints from the residents of Mill Creek, many of whom gave their own testimony that same night. They are represented by Jeffrey Stopar of Semro, Henry, and Barga.

A concert promoter and developer whose main venture, HB Concerts, works production on events all over the country, Mr. Brucks said that ensuring sound quality is at the proper levels and is something his company does all the time, before an act arrives at a given venue and after.

“We travel to big festivals and big shows, even when we come to another outdoor amphitheater, that is when the evaluation takes place with the sound,” he said. “We come in with a serious crew and we fly our audio, which is the main thing. We do an analysis of the room, and we analyze the perimeters and reflections of sound like what is around.”

Acts will often carry their own sound boards and equipment of that nature and once they arrive, it is standard practice to check sound levels a second or third time.

“That is how you get your best answers to where decibels are flying, how far they are flying, where they are going, what is the atmosphere like that day and what is the humidity,” he said. “If my sound engineer says ‘you know what Hunter, we are getting 82 decibels at the driveway of Mr. and Mrs. Jones’ then we will roll those subs, null it. We need to pinpoint our frequencies, our highs, our lows and our mids [middle points]. That is what we do.”

Mr. Brucks expressed exasperation with members of the public who were presenting their own research on sound and treating it as on the same level as the testimony of an acoustician. He said the idea the company his camp hired is not registered in Ohio is false, because they are registered to operate anywhere in the United States.

He also said that in 2022, technology has progressed to the point that acousticians can work remotely, comparing it to the way that NASA can control robots on faraway planets without being physically present.

“There is no such thing as a certified professional engineer in the state of Ohio,” Mr. Brucks said, repeating a phrase argued by Mr. Arnold that an assertion by the city of Waterville for the applicants to bring testimony from a certified professional engineer was impossible. “I believe we are following to the letter everything that the city laid out in the ordinance.”

Expert testimony said that the projected sound levels from the venue would be heard at 50 decibels at the western-most edge of the Mill Creek subdivision, without considering “acoustic shadow” or the dampening effect that the buildings of the venue might have. This is well below the figure that Mr. Brucks said his camp agreed upon with the city.

“We had a private session to go through conditions with council and the city lawyer,” Mr. Brucks said. “What we did is we walked out of there with our lawyers and their lawyers and agreed that 70 to 75 was a fair number at the most western Mill Creek line of residence.”

Mr. Brucks also went back to Waterville Municipal Code, 531.12.

This part of the code, frequently cited by the residents of Mill Creek, deals with fixed source noise levels in the municipality. Mr. Brucks feels that “fixed” is the optimal word and interprets the stipulations of the ordinance as referring to a constant sound, which the amphitheater would not provide.

This was something that several residents at the Oct. 26 meeting vehemently disagreed with.

“I oppose the amphitheater because section 1148.05 of the Waterville Code dictates that the special use be designed, located, and proposed to be operated so that public health safety and welfare will be protected,” Tim Plowman, a Mill Creek resident, said at the meeting.

“As can be seen in the sound study provided by the applicants, the noise created will be intrusive and will absolutely violate section 531.12b of the Waterville Code. This section dictates that no sound emanating from amplified equipment shall be audible at a distance in excess of 200 feet from the sound or equipment source,” he said. “As the [applicant’s] sound study shows, their compliance with this is not possible and the health and welfare of my family will be directly and negatively impacted.”

Matt Harrell, another Mill Creek resident, also said that sound of any kind would be detrimental.

“I need a quiet place to go at the end of the day,” Mr. Harrell said at the meeting. “We have lived in Toledo, went to Orlando and moved back. We picked Waterville. Had I known that there would be an amphitheater in Waterville, I would not have purchased in the city at all. If this conditional permit is approved, I will work with others to appeal it.”

Mr. Stopar even pointed out at the meeting that the Waterville Planning Commission, when making their recommendation for approval, did not have any research into the sound effects of the venue in front of them.

Nevertheless, Mr. Brucks said he has been getting a wave of positive calls into his office, a bit of a change in tone from what he was seeing before. If approved, the amphitheater would now not open until 2024, a timeframe that also has some people mad.

“The tide has turned,” he said. “People are now getting upset with why is it taking so long. Everybody that is calling now is in favor of the plan.”

Mr. Brucks also made it clear that he is confident in the legal argument behind his case, noting that Mr. Arnold pointed out to several Mill Creek residents that they should have been aware the property next to their homes was zoned commercial.

“The bottom line with Waterville is once I met Chris Campbell and we put our minds together, why not? It is zoned for it, and he owns the property,” Mr. Brucks said of Devonshire REIT President and CEO Chris Campbell. “You are not going to be able to find to many of those. The developer owns the property, and the operator has skin in it.”

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