Residents vent frustration over Merriweather noise levels at village board meeting

Community members raised their voices Wednesday night to discuss Merriweather Post Pavilion's noise levels during the Town Center Community Association's village board meeting at Historic Oakland Manor in Columbia.

Following the Sweetlife Festival on May 30 and 31, the Columbia venue has come under much scrutiny after Columbia and Ellicott City residents reported hearing intense sounds from the concert.


Legislation passed in 2013 required Merriweather concerts to operate at 95 decibels within a quarter-mile radius from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Noise must also stay at a 72.5 decibel level at residential property lines outside that radius.

Following a brief introduction by Village Manager Jeryl Baker, the six board members turned to residents for questions and concerns, where the recent festival was referred to as "the infamous weekend."

"The noise from Merriweather was absolutely unbearable," Wilde Lake resident Carol Galbraith said. "There are a lot of technical problems, but I think there is a larger problem as well. … Columbia is not Woodstock [and] it's no Las Vegas …It's not about who is playing; I wouldn't want to hear Bach at those volumes."

Having lived in the area for 24 years, Galbraith described Columbia as an open and honest community but said the noise level issue continues to grow.

"If the sound is battering my house, I should be able to make one call and someone should go over and shut it down," she said. "It was an eight-hour assault on our property. Why didn't police stop it?"

Jane Winer, another Wilde Lake resident, said the constant high volumes "drive me crazy."

"When I'm driving and kids pull up with their music blaring, I can roll up my window and turn on the air conditioning," Winer said. "There, I have a choice, but with Merriweather, I'm stuck."

While the Columbia Association doesn't have control over Merriweather, board member Kirsten Coombs said, the community should use their frustration to gain momentum to fight the issue.

"We're sitting [at home] at 11:01 p.m. and it's instant silence, so, they are obeying that [law]," Coombs said. "Merriweather needs to hold these artists to their contracts, but they're not."

Helen Ruther, another board member, agreed.

"The thumping you hear is the heartbeat of the millennials," Ruther said.

Baker told the board and residents that the health department measures the decibel levels during concerts at several locations both in and outside Merriweather. But, board member Lynn Foehrkolb said, the department should be more concerned about how the volume impacts the health of the youth.

"There are severe damages being done to these kids' [ears]," Foehrkolb said. "[Merriweather] needs to pay for this because [the kids] are going to be paying for these healthcare costs down the road."

The board agreed to send a letter to the state delegation, Columbia Association and County Council, asking to revisit the 2013 legislation.


Also at the meeting, construction applications were approved for Creighton's Run, where new siding and trim will be installed in addition to a roof over the rear lower-level deck.

Columbia Association Aquatics Director John Herdson briefly attended the meeting, introducing himself, Bryant Woods Pool Assistant Manager Sam Cook and Dorsey Hall Pool Assistant Manager Jack Saunderson to the community.