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City council puts stop to Howling Wolf concerts

Citing the voluminous police record of complaints against the amphitheater, the Port Orchard City Council on Monday voted to revoke the temporary use permit of Howling Wolf.

At the public hearing on the matter, also held Monday, amphitheater owner Ron Rice made good on his plan to bring out, in force, those who support Howling Wolf’s concerts. Six concert-goers and rock fans spoke up in favor of keeping the venue open. Most talked about how family-friendly the site was and talked about the high level of personal responsibility common among its audience members.

“We were looking forward to coming out to this venue and being able to bring our kids there,” said Kathleen Mitchell, a Tacoma resident and music fan. “What you don’t get (to see) from across the street is that these are a lot of great people who are doing what they love to do.”

Concert promoter Pat Barric apologized to the council for the noise level at the June 28 concert — the event that led to the hearing and the permit cancelation.

Between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on that date, police received at least 14 complaints from local residents. People said the noise was so loud — even through closed windows — that they couldn’t sleep. Others complained about the highly amplified stream of profanity that they claimed accompanied the music.

Barric said it was a technical mixup that generated the throbbing sound that could be heard at least two miles away — the promoters were expecting a bigger crowd and therefore brought in bigger amplifiers. Rice said the profanity was a case of one person’s over-enthusiasm, which was swiftly taken care of as soon as the promoters realized it was causing problems.

Rice told the council the whole incident was an isolated mistake and that the amps were “significantly larger than they had previously seen.” He also pointed out the three-day event generated no complaints on the other days.

Nevertheless, the body of testimony against Howling Wolf was significantly larger. Thirteen residents spoke against the amphitheater and/or the noise issue associated with it.

Several residents said they didn’t want the site shut down — they just wanted some codified safeguards that would prevent the music from getting as loud as it did June 28. A few people suggested having decimeters installed at Howling Wolf — when the music got too loud, the concert would shut down immediately, no questions asked.

“Pretty soon they’ll get the message — keep it down,” said a nearby resident who asked that her last name not be publicized.

Others objected Howling Wolf’s existence in any form. Several residents complained of the “immoral behavior,” including drug use, littering and “fornication” that they said regularly took place in conjunction with Howling Wolf concerts. Lynn Rasmussen, who has testified against the amphitheater in the past, spoke vehemently against the content of the songs typically played at the site — songs she said were “bigoted” against religion.

“By allowing such filth, we endorse it,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not the kind of community we want to be known as.”

Rice has repeatedly denied allegations of drug use and underage drinking, apart from a highly publicized incident involving one drunk teenager that took place in 2000. Rice said the people who attend his concerts typically come with their families and behave themselves before, during and after the events.

Overall, the council appeared to believe Rice had not taken enough precautions to toe the line while proposals to give Howling Wolf permanent zoning code status were in the works. At least one council member said he felt Rice had shot the council in the foot by allowing the June 28 concert to get out of control the way it did.

In June, the council unanimously approved giving Rice a permit to hold concerts for the rest of the summer while it considered making his right to hold events permanent. The council was also considering amending its noise ordinance to allow bands to play past 11 p.m. — the current cutoff.

Councilman Bob Geiger said Rice behaved like a repeat speeder who apologizes and offers excuses every time he’s pulled over. Geiger said it wasn’t enough anymore to apologize for mistakes — mistakes that have popped up before during the amphitheater’s short history.

“You’ve worn your excuse out, and you’re going to have to do some mighty good work to get back in good graces,” he said.

Rice said the issue may be academic — at this point he isn’t sure whether a new temporary-use permit would be worth pursuing. The promoter, he said, has reported losses of about $5,000 due to the city’s actions — mostly due to lost ticket sales, advertising and band compensation.

“I’m not sure (a new permit) can be processed soon enough to salvage the rest of the season,” Rice said. “I guess it’s still an open question.”

City planner Rob Wenman said work on the proposal to write “outdoor amphitheater” into city zoning code will still go forward as planned. The main problem with Howling Wolf in the past has been its total lack of mention in city code — either as a permitted or a prohibited use. Wenman said the issue will be dealt with this year, one way or another.

“The last directive I had from the city council is to move forward on those discussions,” Wenman said. “We just haven’t gotten back to it.”

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