Neighborly dispute

Noise complaints have The Holland Project searching for a new home

Keystone Avenue resident George Moore, left, makes his case to Mayor Bob Cashell about neighborhood noise associated with the Holland Project. Holland founder Brittany Curtis is seated to Cashell’s right.

Keystone Avenue resident George Moore, left, makes his case to Mayor Bob Cashell about neighborhood noise associated with the Holland Project. Holland founder Brittany Curtis is seated to Cashell’s right.

Photo by David Robert

Complaints from a nearby neighbor became a catalyst for changes at The Holland Project, the recently opened all-ages youth arts space, which operates out of a warehouse off Keystone Avenue.

It was a wake-up call for the group when, on May 18, disgruntled neighbor George Moore succeeded in having Holland Project organizers cited for disturbing the peace. Then, around 9 p.m. on May 24, Seattle band Degenerate Art Ensemble hadn’t even taken the stage when the whole venue was shut down. It hasn’t reopened since.

Moore, 57, is a disabled Vietnam veteran whose home sits a few dozen yards from the Holland Project’s warehouse. Standing on his porch in front of a crocheted American flag wreath hanging on his door, he explained how he can’t hear his television because of the noise. His wife, who rises early for work, can’t sleep with music going until 10 p.m. He said he was unaware that he’d moved next door to an all-ages music and arts venue when he first began renting the home in September. He’d complained about the noise nearly every week since Holland began holding concerts this spring.

“The issue is, they’re disturbing my peace,” he said, looking toward the Holland warehouse with a furrowed brow. “I want it stopped completely. I shouldn’t have to put up with all the teenagers.”

“He is older, and he wants his peace and quiet,” says Holland program director Heather Fuss. “But we also should be informed if our permits could allow any neighbor to shut us down. We thought we were in the clear.”

This ambiguity led to what may have been a historic June 5 gathering at the Holland warehouse, which the city of Reno leased to Holland roughly a year ago. Young local rock musicians, artists, art supporters and concerned neighbors, including Moore, sat down with Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and Commander Doug McPartland of the Reno Police Department for more than an hour to discuss how to reopen the space and help Holland avoid the obliterative fate past all-ages venues in Reno have met.

“I have a feeling it’s the city’s desire to work something out so that the young people can stay in this building,” Mayor Cashell told the crowd of nearly 200 people. “I think what you’ve started is something that’s been needed in this community for a long time.”

Holland organizers, who thought they had every official document they needed in order to operate a music and art youth space, have learned they need a special permit for live music. They’re awaiting approval from the city of Reno for a non-alcoholic cabaret license. Before that is granted, however, they need to make improvements to the building to get it up to safety and fire codes. Perhaps most important to neighbors, a “reasonable” decibel level needs to be established by walking the perimeters of the property with a sound meter.

Once those things are accomplished, The Holland Project will be allowed to reopen at the site, according to Cashell and McPartland.

Sound barriers
Sound is at the heart of the matter. The meeting showed that this isn’t a case of one neighbor against The Holland Project, although Moore set the issue in motion. Other neighbors attending the gathering voiced support for Holland’s efforts but also concerns for their own desire for a restful night.

“On behalf of some of the neighbors, we welcome you to the area, but treat it like you live here,” neighbor and longtime community activist David Farside said. “I’ll get involved in anything to help you as long as I don’t have to hear it two blocks away.”

Commander McPartland told the group that no matter what permit they have, nothing allows them to disturb the neighbors. Determining that disturbance is based on a “reasonableness” standard.

Many in the group were skeptical that sound levels in the warehouse—in essence, a metal shed that the mayor called a “megaphone"—would ever be deemed “reasonable” by neighbors. Doing major work on the building to soundproof it would be throwing money away, as the space was a temporary one from the beginning—the city plans to tear it down within a couple years to build a police station.

The dispute has made clear that the Holland Project, while it may be able to stay at the Keystone location for the next 6-12 months once it gets the special permit, needs to find a new space.

“The faster you find a new home, the better off you are,” Mayor Cashell said. He knew of no other city-controlled building they could use now, but he said there may be a potential candidate in the buildings the city took over along the train trench as part of ReTrac.

He said he and the city of Reno will help Holland work through the process. The fact that it’s willing to overlook code issues makes apparent the city’s strong support for the project, he said. “If they wanted to hold us to the codes, we wouldn’t even be here right now,” said Cashell. “We are going to help you find a location. We want you to continue to look for a location because this is something Reno needs.”

Young people in the crowd emphasized their need for the space, saying they are largely marginalized by casinos and the over-21 crowd when it comes to entertainment.

“If it’s a question of reasonableness, since when does it become reasonable to deny hundreds of kids access to art?” 16-year-old Allanna Noyes asked Mayor Cashell.

The mayor encouraged the group not to be discouraged, repeating the city government’s strong support for their efforts. But he reiterated that there is a process involved—a sometimes painstakingly slow one—and applauded the young crowd for taking part in the political process and actively going after what they want rather than waiting for the city to give it to them. Activism is one part of The Holland Project’s goal, and the youth are getting a first-hand lesson in it now.

So Holland is again searching for a new home—and new funding. In the meantime, organizers have been scrambling to find alternative venues for scheduled gigs. Founder Brittany Curtis says she and Fuss have called about 50 different places looking for a suitable venue for their displaced shows. Their difficulties in finding one—some venues charge $500 an hour or don’t allow people under 21 to play or attend—illustrated the need for something like the Holland Project as an artistic outlet for youth.

“Having tried to reschedule these shows, it’s become ever more apparent why we need a place like this,” said Curtis.

Pastor John Auer offered his support. “We invite you to the First United Methodist Church for anything we can get away with,” he told the group.

Ty Williams is the man with his fingers on the volume knob. A part of Holland from its inception, he works sound and helps book gigs for the venue. He thinks it’s important to counteract the negativity of people who think an all-ages venue in Reno is an inevitable failure.

“There is no way you can shut this project down,” he said, inducing a flinch from the mayor. He didn’t mean it in a rebellious way. He was speaking about the spirit of the project. “You can shut this space down, but the idea of this community exists.”