Public hearing scheduled on proposed anti-noise bill

That boom, boom, boom coming from the stereo may be music to your ears, but it could be unbearable noise to your neighbors.

And under a bill proposed by Councilman Carl. G. Holland, it will be easier for those neighbors to do something about it.


The Pasadena Republican's proposed anti-noise ordinance -- which comes before the County Council at a public hearing tonight -- would prohibit playing music or a musical instrument that can be heard from 50 feet away in a residential area. Police could issue $50 citations to offenders.

"It's about time Anne Arundel County did something about this, boomboxes and vehicles going through neighborhoods blasting music all hours of the day and night," Mr. Holland said.


Previously, Mr. Holland said, residents who wanted to do something about unwanted noise would have to call the police and lodge a disturbing the peace complaint. "When it comes to neighbor against neighbor, they are reluctant to identify themselves. And without a signed complaint from an individual, the police can't act on it," Mr. Holland said. The legislation "eliminates a person actually calling in a complaint, going to court and all that."

The process for drafting the law began more than a year ago, when the Chesterfield Community Association in Pasadena, which is in Mr. Holland's district, held a meeting with the local police district commander to express its concern about noise problems in the neighborhood.

"In particular, there were a group of neighbors who were complaining about one particular house that had their speakers up to the windows," said Bob Adams, Chesterfield Community Association vice president. In that case, neighbors made a complaint, but the offending neighbor just received warnings.

"They would call the police. The police would come, they'd turn it down. The police would leave and they'd turn it up again," Mr. Adams said. "So basically, the law didn't lend itself to correcting the situation. You couldn't give them any substantial violation for what they were doing at that time." The loud music was detracting from the neighbors' enjoyment of the community, especially when music with obscene lyrics was played, Mr. Adams said.

"It's a constant source of irritation. It takes away from your enjoyment of any outside activity. Because you can't be outside, and you don't want your children outside if they're exposed to offensive lyrics."

Apparently the Chesterfield community was not alone in its frustration. When news got out that Mr. Holland was considering an anti-noise bill, many other community groups expressed support.

Caroline Henze, a member of the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association, wrote Mr. Holland encouraging him to submit the bill. "You can't even have the enjoyment of opening up your window anymore without hearing someone else's music," Ms. Henze said. "And these cars, my God, you can hear them two blocks before you see them."

"I get these complaints practically every day from people around here," said William D. McClellan, president of the Dundee and Associates Community Association in Glen Burnie. "I'm an old codger. I'm 77 years old. I've listened to enough noise in my life to know that I don't want to listen to any more."


The county proposal is similar to an Annapolis law adopted in October 1990 that levies a $50 fine if music can be heard 50 feet from its source. At that time, amid concerns the law could be used to target some unpopular groups, opponents threatened to get the American Civil Liberties Union involved. But ACLU executive director Stuart Comstock-Gay said his office has not received a single complaint since the Annapolis law went into effect, indicating to him that it is being fairly enforced. "Our concern had been that the law could be used to pick on people because of some other reason."

The proposal isn't expected to generate any significant opposition, but Council Chairman David G. Boschert said he, too, is concerned about how it is enforced. "I want to make sure it will not be used or perceived as a vendetta-type mechanism," he said.

The council will meet in its chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis tonight at 7:30 p.m.