In Cape Charles, loud music from street parties aggrieves residents

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BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post

Some Cape Charles residents are singing the praises of the Lemon Tree Gallery and its Friday-night live music in hopes that the recently canceled block-party program will make a comeback this summer.

“You are both so gracious and generous and always present wonderful art, programs, and entertainment for the community to enjoy,” wrote Jacqueline Smith of the gallery’s owner, Clelia Sheppard, and manager, Mary Ann Roehm.

Others, however, are complaining about the noise and say the block parties negatively impact nearby businesses.

Friday Nights at Lemon Tree began out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, when public indoor gatherings were restricted and the gallery sought a way to continue connecting the community with the arts.

Each live music event was held outside the gallery on Mason Avenue and the intersecting Strawberry Street.

Mason Avenue, Cape Charles’ main street, was closed on select Fridays for what were essentially block parties celebrating the arts.

The events were not held regularly in 2021, but they became so popular that Lemon Tree had one every Friday during the summer of 2022, with the exceptions of the Fridays before Memorial Day and Labor Day.

But when Lemon Tree applied for a permit to hold Friday Nights at Lemon Tree weekly this summer, pushback from neighboring businesses convinced the gallery to withdraw its application.

Opposition speaks

Some of that opposition was voiced at the Cape Charles Town Council meeting on May 18.

Amy Butta, president of the Wilson building condominiums across the street from the gallery, said the live music events are a major disturbance and inconvenience to residents, many of whom are elderly.

If residents leave home and don’t return before the road is closed for the event, they have to park their vehicles far from their building and walk the rest of the way home, which is especially difficult for residents in their 70s, 80s, or 90s, Butta pointed out.

During the event, the music is so loud the residents can’t even watch television, she added.

Mason Avenue shop and restaurant owners, including cafe owner Cristina Carollo, complained that their businesses suffer during the live music events.

She was concerned about people coming from Lemon Tree and bringing open containers of alcohol into her restaurant. 

Carollo did not want to risk the restaurant losing its alcoholic beverage license.

‘Figure this out’

But there were as many or more public speakers who supported Lemon Tree Gallery’s live music offerings.

“We should be thanking Lemon Tree for bringing the arts to Cape Charles,” said Melinda Blanchard.

Connie Adams told the town council, “I urge you not to ban live music” at the gallery.

Town Manager John Hozey clarified that the town council does not grant or deny event permits; those decisions are made at the staff level.

Neither was Lemon Tree Gallery on the agenda, but Hozey said he and the Town Council would speak about the matter later in the meeting.

He noted that the gallery offered live music every Friday last summer with no complaints, but “sometimes success is its own worst enemy.”

Roehm explained that the event permit application was withdrawn to avoid conflict, but after hearing all the support for the gallery she would consider resubmitting the application.

Town Council members said they believed a compromise was possible and pointed out that other local groups, such as Citizens For Central Park, hold major events like its summer concert series, yet they manage to keep peace with the neighbors.

Hozey recommended Lemon Tree Gallery start by speaking with the director of Cape Charles Main Street, which represents the interests of the businesses in town, and the heads of the two homeowners associations of the condominiums on Mason Avenue.

“We’ve got to be able to figure this out,” he said.

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