The “Battle of Church Street” resumes on Tuesday with bars, restaurants, hotels, property owners – even musicians and an ex-mayor – watching anxiously.
On the surface, the “battle” is just another round of noise skirmishing between a bar – Monty’s – and Queenstown Lakes District Council regulatory quango Lakes Environmental.
But that’s not the half of it. This is a gladiatorial battle about the noise rights of CBD party bars and those who must stick fingers in their ears as a result.
With opposing submissions, hotels like The Spire and Eichardt’s are fighting for their guests – perhaps even their businesses – while ordinary residents in “amphitheatre” areas such as Queenstown Hill are also affected.
LE planner Tim Williams says granting Monty’s wishes would “create an adverse precedent effect”.
Monty’s wants to rewrite its original 2002 resource consent by extending outdoor dining from 10pm to 11pm, and allowing 10 smokers to use a smaller outside area up to 2.30am.
As a result, the bar would breach noise limits – so it’s going the full Monty by demanding a district plan noise exemption as well.
Saying the application is non-complying “overall”, Williams recommends yes to outdoor smoking but no to everything else.
This wrangle has history – in 2007, after alleged consent and noise breaches, QLDC slapped an abatement notice on Monty’s. The Environment Court then issued a stay of abatement and that’s where things stand ahead of next week’s battle royal.
The hearing will have spectators, in spirit if not presence.
Williams notes “a number of noise sources” nearby whose “activities are unlawful”, implying Monty’s scalp on its belt would enable LE to then target other bars and restaurants.
Two prominent opponents, former mayor and mayoress Warren and Lorraine Cooper who live in Park St above Queenstown Gardens, fear a Monty’s win.
“Our concern is that liberalisation or relief from the council’s noise standards will lead to an inevitable incremental creep as other purveyors attempt to join the treadmill,” they write in their submission.
Spire building owner and local property magnate John Martin has filed an opposing submission, while Monty’s only supporter is neighbouring realtor Ray White.
Guests of The Spire would endure noise beyond World Health Organisation levels – even with windows closed, an accompanying report says.
Monty’s noise-control record will also be on trial. Planner Williams says the bar “has found it difficult to administer an [existing] noise management plan to successfully comply with conditions of consent”.
Musicians will also be watching – or rather listening. At present, a “sound limiting device” restricts their volume to “background level”.