OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Noise Control Board garnered strength this week after the Mayor and Council agreed to make changes in the noise code that will allow the Noise Board to have a greater impact on repeat noise offenders.
Brent Ashley, Acting Chairman of the Noise Board, came before the Mayor and Council Tuesday to request a change in the current noise code.
Ashley presented the Mayor and Council with the current issues that the Noise Board is facing. He explained that repeat property owners who are continual noise offenders currently could not be denied a noise permit or renewal of their permit without two noise meter violations.
“As the code is written, the Noise Control Board is powerless to act unless two noise meter violations take place,” Ashley said.
According to Ashley, it is often difficult for officers to issue two noise meter violations. Ashley explained to the council, with additional input from Sergeant Howard Whaley, that while noise meters have been effective in solving the town’s noise problems, there are limitations to the meters.
“A noise meter cannot decipher between a loud stereo coming from a house and a loud muffler going down the street,” Whaley said.
The noise meters, which are operated by police officers trained to use them, have been effective, but cannot be used at all times due to interferences such as traffic, bad weather and heat pumps.
“We want to use the noise meters because they are good tools, they just can’t be used in all situations,” Whaley said.
In the instance that a noise meter is being compromised by excess noise, police officers can act on the 50-foot rule.
The 50-foot rule allows officers to issue noise violations if noises such as loud music, yelling, shouting, whistling, or singing are audible by an officer at a distance of 50 feet or less. This allows officers to be able to identify, without the aid of the noise meter, where the violation is occurring and take action.
Although the 50-foot rule has been effective in catching individual violators, it has not been effective in stopping property owners who violate the noise ordinance.
Ashley suggested that the council change the code so that it would require two 50-foot violations instead of two noise meter violations for the property owner to be brought before the Noise Control Board and face potential loss of their permit.
Councilman Jay Hancock, who attends the Noise Board meetings, agreed with the proposal. According to Hancock, as it stands, the 50-foot rule has little impact on the property owners in violation. The retired police officer explained that repeated offenders realize that they face little threat without the two noise meter violations.
“They realize that the 50-foot rule really has no impact upon them, it may have an impact upon the noisy partiers, but it doesn’t have any impact on their property,” said Hancock.
Hancock added that the 50-foot rule had been an effective tool that the courts had accepted.
Hancock also said that over the years the noise problems have decreased, but that a stronger impact was still needed for the property owners in violation.
Councilman Jim Hall voiced support for the proposal, saying, “I think that when there is a repeat offender and when they don’t show up to your hearings and they continue to do this, I think we need a mechanism to handle it and I support your request.”
City Attorney Guy Ayers voiced his opposition to the motion and pointed out that a change in the chapter, in addition to the change in the code, would be required.
The council voted to include the two 50-foot violations in Section 30-403-B of the code and to make the necessary amendments to both the code and the chapter.