A Montgomery County General District judge ruled Tuesday in favor of the Starlite Drive-in on charges the “open air” business violated the Christiansburg noise ordinance.
As many as 10 different times, town police were called to the site off Roanoke Street with officers citing the drive-in for having a sound system too loud for the neighborhood in and around the theatre.
In several cases, police officers monitored the sound from a nightly movie and found they could hear it inside a nearby home.
The theatre argued they should be exempt from the noise ordinance. The court case had been delayed for the past four months, and the theatre has completed its 2017 movie season.
The dismissal of charges now opens the door on a similar noise violation involving Fatback Soul Shack, a restaurant just a half-mile down Roanoke Street from the theatre. The business was cited for a violation after opening a freestanding stage outside in its parking lot where bands can play.
Judge Randal Duncan said the town’s noise ordinance, as presently written, doesn’t apply to sounds that businesses in certain zoning districts make as part of their operations including the drive-in.
Duncan pointed out the noise associated with the business was necessary and incidental.
Town Attorney Theresa Fontana argued that a new sound system installed last year at the drive-in had become a nuisance to the surrounding neighborhood.
The Starlite installed an outdoor speaker system after patrons who sat outside of their vehicle or in the back of their trucks complained they could not hear using the radiobroadcast system.
Throughout the debate, the Starlite’s supporters argued that the town needed to re-examine its noise ordinance and make changes.
Members of the Christiansburg town council met behind closed doors Tuesday with Fontana. No statement was made, but the town can appeal the court decision.
The Starlite’s owners faced a maximum of $2,500 in fines and/or 10 days in jail.