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Annapolis residents push for public noise ordinance


Downtown Annapolis residents urged the city council last night to pass a public disturbance ordinance to deliver their neighborhood from weekend bar-hoppers whose rowdy behavior often rattles the peace.

The ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Dean L. Johnson and Ward One Democratic Alderman Louise Hammond, would tighten public disturbance laws by making a misdemeanor the acts of: "yelling, shouting, hooting, making rude remarks, whistling or singing on or near the public streets so as to unreasonably disturb the peace."

The ordinance also addresses such noise-makers as car alarms, motorcycles and blaring radios.

Hammond, who represents the downtown area, said police officers believe that the new ordinance is worded in a way that will help them curb the revelry that often spills onto the streets when bars close. She said the current law is too vague.

"We strongly support this ordinance," said W. Minor Carter, president of the Ward One Residents Association. "The constant barrage of noise has been wearing citizens down."

To illustrate how disruptive noise from the street can be, Carter ran outside City Hall to blast an air horn as discussion of the ordinance began, temporarily halting the meeting as city officials and the audience erupted in laughter.

Some aldermen expressed concern over the law. Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, questioned whether the ordinance should specify a decibel level at which a person can be considered a public disturbance.

"There are problems with using decibel meters," Hammond said. "The buildings and the water change the readings you get they can be challenged in court."

Alderman Cynthia A. Carter, a Ward 6 Democrat, was skeptical of having police officers decide what is and is not rowdy behavior.

W. Minor Carter pointed out that police officers use discretion to enforce many laws today.

Said Carter: "Who knows what reckless driving is? They don't say you have to change lanes three times in two miles or anything like that. Police make those discretionary decisions all the time. What we want is civility returned downtown and noise control."

Downtown resident Lise DeLeon suggested the city work with the Naval Academy on keeping city streets quiet on weekend nights.

"Most of the hooting and loud noises and obnoxious language is done by our midshipmen," DeLeon said. "If [academy officials] could just be informed of the disturbance that they're causing, that would quiet down my street tremendously."

Before the meeting, the council voted to confirm Danielle Mat-land, current acting city Director of Transportation, as the permanent director effective today.

Matland, 46, has worked for the city since 1979 and had been acting director for almost a year.

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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