EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 18, 2013

Noise complaints prompt board to delay Smolak Farms' license renewal

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The selectmen held off on renewing Smolak Farms’ entertainment license Monday night due to neighbors’ complaints about loud music from wedding receptions and other events.

Attorney Timothy Schiavoni of Haverhill, who represents several of the neighbors, told the board the noise “is infringing on their property rights.” During the summer, when functions at the farm are most prevalent, the windows in some of the neighbors’ houses rattle, Schiavoni said.

“I knew nothing about it,” farm owner Michael Smolak said of Schiavoni’s appearance before the Board of Selectmen. A few of the neighbors sat at the back of the conference room at Town Hall, but none of them addressed the board.

Smolak, whose family has operated the farm for more than 80 years, said if he had known the matter was going to be on the selectmen’s agenda, he would have attended. The neighbors, he said, would have been better off speaking directly to him rather than hiring an attorney.

Furthermore, he added, he asked that his entertainment license allow the playing of music until 10 rather than 11 p.m. “out of consideration for the neighbors.”

“Conversation,” Smolak said, is better than “confrontation.” While the neighbors’ complaints surprised him, Smolak said he has hired a sound engineer to assess the situation.

The functions at Smolak Farms take place near Dale Street, where the neighbors reside. Smolak said it’s the only suitable spot on his property.

During his appearance before the selectmen, Schiavoni made it clear he and his clients are not trying to impede Smolak Farms’ ability to earn revenue.

“We don’t want them to stop doing what they’re doing,” he said. “We just want to work out some restrictions.”

Town Manager Andrew Maylor said he’s confident Smolak and the neighbors can find “common ground.” Smolak said he thinks everyone involved will be able to bring about a “good conclusion.”

Smolak noted that these days, keeping a farm going, especially in New England, is “daunting.” While Smolak Farms grows huge quantities of apples, peaches, raspberries, strawberries and cherries as well as vegetables, the operation also includes a farmstand and bakery, an education center and a place for parties and other entertainment.

The farm had to provide these added features to stay in business, Smolak has said.

Schiavoni could not be reached for comment yesterday.