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National Harbor reveals event cancellations over noise complaint accommodations

Neighborhood activists recorded noise from the Celebrez en Rose festival and called efforts to ease concerns a failure.

OXON HILL, Md. — A spokesperson for National Harbor says promoters of at least two outdoor events have decided to cancel over efforts to reduce noise complaints from nearby residents.

National Harbor did not immediately reveal which events are being canceled, but said event organizers backed out after being offered "a different location on the property."

The cancellations come as the first major outdoor event of the season resulted in bitter complaints from a group of neighbors in the adjacent Riverbend subdivision of Oxon Hill, despite efforts to reduce the impact. Resident James Yesinowski provided cell phone video and sound recordings of the Celebrez en Rose Wine and Music Festival, which was staged between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday. Announcers could clearly be heard kicking off the event from Yesinowski's position in a neighbor's yard on Riverbend Ct.

Yesinowski called the amplified noise "outrageous".

The festival featured performers D.J. Jazzy Jeff and Robin Thicke and was in compliance with a Prince George's County permit issued for the event, according to producer Cleveland Spears, who said the festival went on despite being unexpectedly moved from an area of National Harbor called Southpoint to another site on a parking lot known as the Plateau because of noise concerns.

The Plateau section of National Harbor is farther away from the Riverbend subdivision. The move cost the festival tens of thousands of dollars, Spears said.

“We made extraordinary efforts to accommodate neighbor concerns, while still providing a great experience for our guests," Spears said. “We were able to relocate an event that took a year to plan in a matter weeks.”

The move to the Plateau lot required the installation of a large turf field to accommodate the outdoor picnic theme of the event, Spears said.

Thought we couldn't lay a football field's worth of fresh grass in less than a week? ....you thought wrong 🤷‍♀️ You know what they say, where there's a will, there's a rosé!

Posted by Célébrez en Rosé on Friday, June 10, 2022

Prince George’s County Council Member Ed Burroughs III said he is searching for solutions after meeting with residents

“It's important that we find a sweet spot," Burroughs said. "It's important that our neighbors are not being imposed upon in a way that is disruptive to their daily lives as it is also important for the National Harbor to be able to have very successful and meaningful events.”

National Harbor issued a statement from Kent Digby, the executive vice president of asset management, operations and marketing. 

“National Harbor moved the event this year to an area away from the neighborhood and put in sound dampening ground cover," Digby said. "The event was permitted and approved by the county. The sound level was decibel checked at the beginning of the event and throughout the day. The event ended early at 8:45 pm." 

The Prince George's County Department of Permitting Inspection and Enforcement issued a special use permit for the "picnic style" festival, allowing the event to occur from noon to 8 p.m., according to a copy of the permit provided by the agency.

A DPIE spokesperson reported the agency has met with residents in the summer of 2021 and again in February 2022.

"The group was advised to report loud noise complaints to the Prince George’s County Police Department," spokesperson Avis Thomas-Lester wrote in a statement. "DPIE told the group that Zoning inspectors would visit an event and use sound monitoring equipment to determine if the sound exceeds levels allowed by County Code. If so, DPIE would take appropriate enforcement action, which may include fines."

Yesinowski and his neighbor Joyce Thorpe said the accomodations made for the Celebrez en Rose festival were a failure. They explained that part of the neighborhood forms a natural amphitheater, which concentrates sound in some areas and leaves others less affected.

“When I had my neighbor over they could not believe it," Yesinowski said. "He said 'This is outrageous the level of sound coming into here' and it went on all day."

Yesinowski called National Harbor a "nightmare neighbor."

Thorpe said she has been raising concerns for years.

“They always say 'we're aware of the issue, we're going to work on it.'  But nothing has been done," Thorpe said. 

In October 2021, the group collected 80 signatures on a petition demanding enforcement of the county's code against noise disturbances, saying National Harbor did not respect the "neighborhood and its residents" due to the disruptive event schedules. 

"Their outside programs with outrageous volume, foul language, and disorderly attendees, is disruptive to the peace, quiet, and harmony of our neighborhood," the petition says." 

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