AVON — Every year about this time, the night air starts to get a bit crisper, leaves get tinged with orange and red, and an air horn sounds over a local vineyard about every 90 seconds.
Police estimate they have received 40 to 50 complaints in the last couple of weeks about an air horn used by Schober Vineyards to scare deer, raccoons and other hungry wildlife away from grapes that are in the process of being harvested.
A few callers have told police the device sounded like shotguns being fired.
“Most of the calls are not logged because they’re (the vineyard owners) not in violation of any city ordinance,” Avon Police Chief Richard Bosley said.
The complaints have largely come from Avon Lake residents who live within earshot of the device being used by the family-owned vineyards, a longtime Chester Road business whose immediate surroundings include small office parks and businesses including Petitti Garden Center.
The air horn, which sounds approximately every 90 seconds during overnight hours to frighten off nocturnal animals that forage for food, is permitted under local legislation that also allows the use of fixed sirens or warning devices by the Fire Department, Bosley said.
The small vineyard is immediately north of Chester Road just west of Lear Nagel Road and is closer to residential developments in Avon Lake than to housing projects in Avon, which are farther away.
Owner Edward Schober could not be reached for comment Thursday. No one appeared to be at the business Thursday afternoon, and a gate was lowered across the driveway.
Mayor Jim Smith, who remembers hearing more of the devices years ago when he was in his teens and 20s, acknowledged they can be annoying, but he said anyone who’s lived in the area for any length of time is used to the noise.
“I live about a mile and a half away, and I can hear it if the window is open,” Smith said.
But he was quick to point out the devices are used for a short period each year.
“This is his (Schober’s) livelihood, his main source of income,” Smith said. “This law is meant to protect his ability to earn a living, not to upset people.”
Schober has told police he’ll likely use the air horn for about two more weeks as he harvests the grapes he sells for juice and wine, Bosley said.
“They’re especially concerned (about the volume of grapes to be harvested) due to the late frost, which meant crops would be less this year than in past years,” Bosley said.
The fear is that animals could deplete the grape crop even further.
The situation is not a new one, according to officials.
Bosley said he believes Schober is the only local farmer who still uses such a noise device.
“You have homeowners who are interested in the quiet and solitude, and there are farmers trying to maintain their crops and livelihoods,” Bosley said. “There are two diametrically opposed interests we’re trying to balance.”
“People want that open land, but they don’t want farmers to farm,” Smith said of the noise complaints.
The vineyards will host a Pick-Your-Own-Grapes Weekend 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
All grapes will be sold for 50 cents a pound. Anyone wishing to pick grapes is asked to bring their own containers.
For more information, visit www.schobervineyards.com.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.