Covered Bridge wedding ceremony disrupted by noise complaint from neighbor

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An Elizabethton couple’s “I do’s” started with “You don’t” after the couple found their wedding plans altered after a neighbor said he was “annoyed” by the music planned for the ceremony.

Stephanie and William Bunten planned to get married in the Covered Bridge Gazebo on Saturday afternoon. However, when the musician arrived to practice for the ceremony, Tom Cowan, who lives next door to the park, called the Elizabethton Police Department to complain.

Cowan is involved in an ongoing legal battle with the City of Elizabethton over the construction of the Covered Bridge Stage in the park next to his residence. His complaint is based on noise issues, as well as zoning concerns, regarding the structure.

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According to the police report by EPD Sgt. Shane Darling, the noise complaint came at 12:21 p.m. Saturday. Cowan told officers there was a person playing music through speakers and pointed out a section in the city codes on disturbing the peace and anti-noise regulations that prohibit that.

Darling then spoke with musician Grant Anderson, Nashville, and Bunten, who said the gazebo had been reserved for a wedding.

“They stated they would stop using the sound system if necessary and would even relocate the wedding to a church if necessary,” Darling said. “Anderson returned to Cowan’s residence with us, and we spoke to Cowan again. I pointed out to Cowan that the statute states the noise must ‘annoy, disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of any person in any…residence.’ Cowan stated the music did annoy him.”

Darling said Cowan was informed the wedding party was willing to play acoustic music and not use a microphone, but Cowan said that would “annoy” him as well.

However, Darling then informed Cowan the couple had the right to hold their wedding, and if he believed the noise from the ceremony was annoying then he could call 911 again and officers would respond.

Rita and Bill Fancher, parents of the bride, said the wedding was held at 4 p.m. as scheduled, but with no amplification for the ceremony. No further complaints were filed but the family was left wondering how the situation had occurred.

“We questioned how we could have the permit to use the park, but not be allowed to use the amplification,” Rita Fancher said. “We had not been told there was another permit needed for amplification. When we made the reservation, we walked through and were shown where the outlets were. We talked with the city and found out this was the first time something like this had happened there. We would hate to see this happen to anyone else.”

City Planning Director Jon Hartman said the city does have a separate amplification permit that has to be obtained for activities in the city that will require speakers and microphones.

“The city does have an ordinance on events with amplification in the city,” Hartman said. “There is an amplification permit if someone will need to use those items. Having a reservation for a park does not imply the use of amplification systems.”

Parks and Rec Director Mike Mains said the situation was a new one for the city. Park reservations are made through his department, and he said the topic is being reviewed by the city.

“We will contact all future families who are holding events in the park and will notify them of the steps they need to take,” he said.

Mains said he is also looking into giving the Bunten wedding party a refund.