Sound vibrations that cross property lines could be a potential violation of the Town of Bel Air's noise ordinance under legislation approved Monday night by the town commissioners, who introduced another ordinance that would permit food trucks and other mobile vendors in some parts of town.
The noise enforcement change, introduced last month as Ordinance 756-12, was prompted by problems people living in homes near the town's bar district were having with vibrations from music being played, the town's police chief said last month when the revised ordinance was introduced. He said the typical way of measuring noise, the decibel meter, could not account for the impact on nearby residents caused by vibrations.
The new Section E to the existing noise ordinance was enacted by a 5-0 voted after a public hearing during which no one spoke.
The new addition to the law states: "It is unlawful for any person to cause or permit, beyond the property line of a source, vibration of such direct intensity to cause another person to be aware of the vibration by such direct means as sensation of touch or visual observation of moving objects. The observer shall be located at or within the property line of the receiving property when vibration determinations are made."
The existing noise ordinance sets limits by decibels, a measurement of sound, by the type of zoning district and by either day or night. Those limits are 75 decibels day or night in an industrial zone; 67 decibels by day and 62 by night in a commercial zone; and 65 decibels by day and 55 by night in a residential zone.
One amendment proposed to the town's code governing itinerant dealers, peddlers and solicitors will remove a provision that severely restricts mobile vendors, including food trucks, from operating within the town limits.
Sections to be added to the code include where mobile and temporary vendors can operate, including a provision that states in part: "The Department of Planning shall maintain an Itinerant Dealers and Peddlers Map depicting permitted locations dealers and peddlers may conduct business within the Town of Bel Air." A copy of the proposed map was also submitted with Ordinance 757-12, and it basically restricts such operations to the downtown area, away from Main and Bond streets. Residential neighborhoods also would be generally off-limits.
In areas where food trucks and other mobile vendors would be permitted, they could use public parking spaces, so long as they pay the meter rate and observe any time limits.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held prior to the Jan. 7 town meeting.
"We plan to protect our bricks and mortar restaurants that rely on lunch business," Commissioner David Carey said.
Commissioner Rob Reier inquired of Planning Director Kevin Small how the law would be enforced. Small replied that police officers would have the authority to enforce at the scene and to move a vendor to a proper location, but it would be up to the town's director of administration to issue a municipal infraction violation notice if the law isn't being filed.
Reier asked if a vendor's permit could be revoked, but Small did not explain under what circumstances the law would permit a revocation.
Commissioner Susan Burdette said she would be interested in hearing from members of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance about the proposed law, which is one reason Small recommended the hearing be held next month rather than later this month, to give people affected more time to understand what the town is proposing.
Small said Bel Air Downtown Alliance Director Scott Walker is one of those who initiated the ordinance, although Burdette said she suspects some alliance members might have a different opinion.
One restaurant operator who attended Monday's meeting and spoke briefly during the public comment section of agenda said she doesn't oppose letting food trucks in town, as long as they pay their fair share.
"Bricks and motor restaurants pay a lot greater than a one-time yearly fee," said Bridget Lloyd, the manager at MaGerk's Pub, which was recently named the town's Business of the Year for 2012.
Talking with Small following the meeting, Lloyd pointed out a restaurant like hers pays a considerable amount of money in taxes and has to account for liability insurance and meet other requirements that a mobile vendor won't. She said the annual license fee the town is proposing - $230 - is too low.
Lloyd also said she is concerned how the ordinance will be enforced if a food truck tries to operate where it's not permitted.
The proposed ordinance states that no itinerant dealer, peddler or solicitor may connect to utility services if operating on a public road and that, except when operating on private property, "no itinerant dealer, peddler or solicitor may conduct business within 300 feet of a town or parks and recreation sponsored event without permission of the event coordinator." Those operating on private property would have to secure the written permission of the property owner beforehand.
A mobile vendor operating on public property or road would have hours restricted to between 9 a.m. and midnight and would not be allowed to operate on major holidays.
All mobile vendors will be required to have a town license, unless they are connected with a town or parks and recreation sponsored event.
A companion ordinance, No. 758-12, was also introduced Monday to remove a section of the zoning code referring to truck sales since No. 757-12 is addressing those activities. A public hearing on it is also scheduled Jan. 7.
A resolution, No. 993-12, was introduced Monday to set new licensing fees for mobile vendors and peddlers. A peddlers license will cost $120 for one year or $60 for up to 90 days, while an itinerant dealers license will be $60 for up to 90 days or $230 a year.
The same resolution also adds new fees paid by developers in lieu of setting aside land in their projects for passive and active open space, as specified in the town development regulations. The proposed new fees in lieu of providing the required open space are $50,000 an acre for both passive and active spaces. This ordinance will also have its hearing on Jan. 7.
All the ordinances and resolutions introduced Monday can viewed on the town's website at http://www.belairmd.org/about/commissioners.asp.
Three students from The John Carroll School AP Government and Politics class were honored as winners of the town's Municipal Month Essay Contest for 2012.
Mackenzie Reuse received the first place award, Martha Schick received the second place award and Emma Minnis received the third place award. Each received gift cards from Harford Mall.
Mayor Ed Hopkins said the town has held the contest annually as part of Municipal Awareness Month. The town chose John Carroll's AP class, taught by Brian Powell, to participate this year.
The students were asked how they would encourage more citizen participation in local government and to explain "how you would improve the current relationship between government and its citizens."
Hopkins called the winning entries "awesome." The winners' families were all attendance and busy shooting pictures and video as each girl delivered her essay.
Also honored Monday was Sarah Lingelbach, a fifth-grade student at Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School, who received the town's Student Achievement Award.
The award, presented by Burdette, reads in part: "Sarah's creative spirit shines in Homestead-Wakefield's chorus and yearbook committee, and our soldiers overseas appreciate the cards and cookies that Sarah sends for the holidays...To say that Sarah has a kind heart would be an understatement. Sarah gives generously of her time to several area churches for many outreach activities, such as preparing bags of food for Harford County's and Baltimore City's homeless population and by also serving dinners to Harford County's underprivileged on Monday evenings."
Sarah has also run in charity events such as the Susan Komen Race for the Cure and is a competitive swimmer. Her parents, grandparents and brothers were on hand to see her receive the award.
The commissioners reappointed Jeanne Close to the Cultural Arts Commission and complimented her for her past efforts on the commission.
They also reappointed Greg Adolph to the Board of Appeals.
In thanking the commissioners, Adolph, who was in attendance Monday, also took a few moments to remind the commissioners he and his neighbors in Moore's Mill Manor are still dealing with drainage issues that have been plaguing the community for years. He distributed more photos of flooding, some taken in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
"I appreciate your support in addressing this issue," he said.
The commissioners also approved a lease for a small island of land at the entrance to the new parking lot on Main Street, where the owner of the neighboring Main Street Tower Restaurant plans to set up an outdoor seating area.
The lease is for a term of three years for $3,120 a year, based on the cost of three parking spaces, Town Administrator Chris Schlehr explained. The restaurant will also have to carry $2 million in liability insurance.
Schlehr said the restaurant will install a door leading to the outdoor area and will also allow the town to place a 4-by-8 foot sign on the exterior wall that directs people to the nearby town parking garage.
The first Authors and Artists Holiday Gift Sale will be held at the Bel Air Reckord Armory Saturday, Dec. 8, from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 410-638-5323.
The Bel Air Downtown Alliance and town government are sponsoring the second annual holiday movie night on Dec. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Bel Air Reckord Armory. "The Polar Express" is the feature film. Free admission and popcorn.
The Bel Air Cultural Arts Commission is sponsoring Tuba Christmas on Dec. 16 at 4:30 p.m. at the armory. Admission is free.
The Bel Air Community Chorus will present its winter concert on Dec. 16 at the Bel Air High School auditorium. Admission is free.