Heard Mentality

How much longer will the city allow the acclaimed museum to disrupt a historic neighborhood's peace and quiet?

Into this mix comes the city, whose proposal for the museum's rezoning by the city Planning Department varies widely from stipulations being requested by the neighborhood. Even the museum, which does not want to endanger its ability to make money, seems less demanding, when compared to the city's proposal.

The main points of contention are the hours of operation, the routing of traffic and the potential for disruption from outdoor music being played.

The city is proposing that the Heard be allowed to host private events until 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The city wants all traffic isolated to the museum grounds and not on residential streets. And the city stipulations cite specific decibel levels that must be monitored and enforced.

Craig Larotonda
Heard lawyer Nick Wood says the museum wants to be a good neighbor.
Kevin Scanlon
Heard lawyer Nick Wood says the museum wants to be a good neighbor.

The Heard has offered to stop all private events by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. It has agreed to discontinue amplified music outdoors, except in courtyards and tents, by 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. on weekends. And it is requiring traffic to be routed away from the neighborhood upon exiting the museum at its Monte Vista entrance.

The neighborhood doesn't want any music amplified outdoors, except for the handful of annual museum events such as the Indian Market. Private-use events must end by 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on weekends. And all traffic has to exit the museum onto Central Avenue.

"Whatever stipulations we agree on, they've got to be enforceable," Skelly says. "I hope the city would be ready to enforce whatever it agrees on."

Richert says that upon being rezoned, the museum would be subject to an annual review to ensure the Heard is complying. At any time, the new zoning permit would be subject to revocation.

"The council will always hold that ace in the hole," Richert says.

Unfortunately, the ace is only good if played. And the city council seems to know any decision will probably not fix the rift that now exists.

"I do think it's gotten personal," says Mike Johnson, who inherited the Heard as part of his district in November, when he was elected to fill former longtime council member Cody Williams' seat.

However, he says, "it's not like the neighborhood was there and we just plopped [the Heard] down."

The neighborhood seems to understand all too well what it is up against.

"We've not taken the position their zoning request should be denied outright, which we could have done," Skelly says. "I have faith that common sense will prevail, despite the fact it's the Heard Museum on the other side."

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