7:19 PM EST, December 27, 2012
Merriweather Post Pavilion has been in Columbia since 1967. Howard County has only had a noise ordinance since 1985. Why Merriweather wasn't exempted from the ordinance in the first place is absurd.
This issue involves legal complexities that cut along county, state and even federal lines. Being the state already has the ability to decide on local issues and the county's noise ordinance is adopted to mirror that of the state's, this exemption should be governed by the state.
The proposed exemption would legally codify Merriweather's operation as it has been for 45 years. Failing to account for Merriweather, under the current code a decibel measurement could be taken at the edge of CA's property (which abuts Merriweather) and the venue would be in violation placing it in an untenable position because almost every event (concerts, symphonies, high school graduations) could technically be a noise violation.
It should not be overlooked that there is a measure of buyer responsibility here. When I purchased my house in Kings Contrivance, I was aware of its proximity to Interstate 95. When motorcycles loudly roar up the highway, I don't blame the interstate system. Those who purchased their residence after 1967 should have factored the proximity of an open-air amphitheater into their decision.
Merriweather has always enjoyed broad support in the community. Whenever questions about its future are raised, the vast majority of public sentiment stands in its favor. Indeed, its preservation as an open-air, large-capacity music venue was assured as part of the Downtown Master Plan approved by the County Council several years ago.
Thanks to the Downtown Columbia Master Plan, Merriweather is slated to receive a major, multi-million dollar upgrade to strengthen its viability for years to come, and with the transition of downtown Columbia to a more vibrant urban environment already underway. We should be seeking ways to maximize the potential of the pavilion by squaring away legal loose ends rather than finding ways to further hamstring its operations.
The community has already spoken about Merriweather's future. Changing the noise ordinance now is merely a reflection of that reality.
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