‘Like drums inside the bedroom’ — NJ man says he can’t escape movie theater’s noise
HOWELL — It was another unhappy ending for a township man who says his family has been dealing with the sound of "rumbling thunder" at their home ever since a speaker-happy movie theater opened its doors along Route 9 in the middle of last year.
But he's not rolling credits on his fight just yet.
By a 4-3 vote Monday night, the zoning board upheld a previous decision that Marc Parisi's noise complaint is unenforceable. Most board members insisted the earlier ruling was in line with the original resolution discussed in 2015 that led to the approval of development of Xscape Theatres.
The theater prides itself on its immersive sound technology. As an assurance to residents during a pair of hearings in April 2015, the theater manager and the theater's acoustical expert said the sound levels emitted from the facility would be inaudible and would not rise above routine traffic noise.
Parisi, 38, says that couldn't be further from the truth, and he's been living with "this noise nuisance" since the theater's opening.
"It happens while they're showing movies any time between 11 in the morning and 1 in the morning," Parisi said. "It's daily, it's constant, it's a complete disturbance to the peaceful enjoyment of our life."
Parisi, who lives less than 200 feet from the back of Xscape, said his neighbors can also hear the theater from outside their homes, but his family is the only one dealing with sounds inside the home as well.
"I feel that the board made the wrong decision, and we will seek other avenues to have this rectified," Parisi said after the two-hour meeting.
His attorney, Gordon Gemma, said Parisi has "many steps" available to continue his fight against the noise. That includes filing a noise complaint in municipal court.
According to Eric Zwerling, a noise expert acquired by Parisi who testified before the zoning board Monday, Xscape is in violation of Howell's noise ordinance, which specifically prohibits "plainly audible" sound production and reproduction devices between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Zwerling conducted a site investigation of Parisi's property during the overnight hours of June 22 into June 23. Audible sound was registered in the rear yard, inside the fenced pool area and within Parisi's bedroom, he said.
"It sounded like drums inside his bedroom," Zwerling told the board.
According to Zwerling, approval to develop the site in 2015 failed to consider the low frequency sound that's disturbing the Parisi residence. When evaluating the potential noise impact from the facility, the scale used by the theater was inadequate, he said, and his own measurements showed sound levels substantially higher than those from traffic along Route 9.
Decibel levels and varying scales were of no interest to the few zoning board members who voted in favor of Parisi's appeal.
"A noise is a noise," they said, insisting a residential disturbance is something that should be examined further.
The attorney representing the theater and shopping plaza said the board's vote shows the original zoning officer's decision on Parisi's application was correct, and it was a decision based solely on facts.
Parisi contests representatives from Xscape visited his home after his initial complaints, and upon hearing for themselves the sound coming from the theater, promised to correct the issue. Fast forward months later, and no progress has been made.
"It is inexcusable in this day and age that they would build a theater and not not have it soundproof, especially if they're going to build a theater next to residential homes," Parisi said.
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