Merriweather noise, proposed gas station spark Columbia resident concerns

Several Columbia residents took their complaints to the Columbia Association's Board of Directors Thursday evening to discuss the ongoing issues with loud noise from Merriweather Post Pavilion and a proposal to the county's Department of Planning and Zoning to construct a gas station along Snowden River Parkway.

Nearly a month ago, Merriweather hosted the Sweet Life Festival on May 30 and 31, featuring many artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Billy Idol and Calvin Harris. Although Columbia and Ellicott City residents reported loud noise levels throughout the festival, complaints escalated during the final performances on May 31.


According to the 2013 legislation, concerts are required to operate at 95 decibels within a quarter-mile radius from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and noise must stay at a 72.5-decibel level at residential property lines outside that radius. Between 11 and 11:30 p.m., venues must operate at 55 decibels or lower.

CA board member Andy Stack said the board received Sweet Life noise reports from the county with readings taken by the Department of Environmental Health.

"We did see two recording sessions that were done during the Sweet Life Festival, which seems to have generated most of the comments," Stack said. "I think [inspectors] found one recording where [Merriweather] was violating the decibel level and they called Merriweather Post immediately to tell them they needed to turn down the music."

While many Wilde Lake residents are upset with the loud noise that "has gone on for years," Stack said the board's review of the health department's reports show Merriweather has stayed within the limits of the legislation.

"Even though the sound may be heard in different places, it looks like the levels are still within the law itself," Stack said. "[Residents] feel like they're not getting any rest from [Merriweather] and they would like us to ask our state legislature to change the sound levels."

Stack said the board has not yet discussed what may be an appropriate sound level but will do so following more research.

The board also listened to grievances against Two Farm's proposal for the construction of a Royal Farms gas station, convenience store and car wash along the southeast corner of Snowden River Parkway and Minstrel Way in Columbia. The department's report states a warehouse, office building and parking lot currently occupy the location with sole access from Minstrel Way.

Residents opposed the plan for a number of reasons, Stack said, mainly siting the impact on vehicular and pedestrian traffic as well as lack of completion of all necessary procedures by the county.

"There's been some concern that all the appropriate processes haven't been followed [by the county]," Stack said. "One of the things the board has been concerned with over the past couple of years is making sure that the process for handling new town zoning is followed. I think that most of our concerns have to do with making sure that the process is followed correctly and everybody gets treated the same."

Describing any zoning as "a complicated set of issues," Stack said residents also wanted to ensure the construction of sidewalks and pathways so the area will be "more walk-able." The board then took a straw poll, opposing the Royal Farms site development plan.

The board later discussed different types of outreach to the community, in addition to working with the state, county and Chamber of Commerce.

"The sense of the board was meeting with the county, the state and the chamber of commerce is very important, so we need to continue to do that," Stack said. "We need to work on better outreach."

The board also agreed to send a letter to the Howard Hughes Corporation, encouraging full spectrum housing for more affordable units in the Downtown area.