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Hagerstown residents told to expect noise downtown

July 03, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown resident Tom Lowman said he couldn't believe his ears during a meeting Wednesday with city officials and members of the county liquor board to discuss the noise related to bars in the downtown area.

Police officers and liquor inspectors said the noise associated with the bars wasn't a major problem, prompting Lowman, who lives downtown, to say they must be deaf. He said he believed officials had decided there wasn't a noise problem before he had a chance to speak.

"This whole thing was cut and dry before we came in," Lowman said. "I could hear (the noise) when I took my hearing aids out."

Another downtown resident, Noel Brady, agreed.

"You've convinced me," Brady said, his tone sarcastic, as he addressed officials. "It's my imagination. Nothing happened ... I'm convinced nothing is going to be done."

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The Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board, called the meeting to discuss noise complaints leveled by downtown residents, board Chairman Robert L. Everhart said. Brady, Lowman, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and members of the City Council and Hagerstown Police Department were invited to attend.

Everhart said the purpose of the meeting was to find a happy medium so downtown residents and the owners of bars in the area could live in harmony.

"We're willing to work with everybody," Everhart said. "We just want to work together."

Liquor inspectors Bob Shoemaker and Dick Koontz said they were assigned to monitor several establishments in and near downtown - among them Decourcy's Pub, Duffy's on Potomac and Hot Shots Tavern - after noise complaints were filed. The inspectors said the noise they heard wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

The owners of those establishments could not be reached for comment.

Shoemaker said he attributed a lot of the noise to people who were smoking outside because of the state's smoking ban.

"Several people talking at normal volumes creates noise," Shoemaker said.

Koontz said he heard noise "coming from traffic - teenagers with large boomboxes in their cars."

The Hagerstown Police Department is not "turning a blind eye" to noise complaints, Sgt. Kevin S. Simmers said.

"It is not a criminal problem in my view," Simmers said. "It is not something we could make a criminal arrest on."

Simmers said controlled noise coming from night clubs is a lot better than the type of noise common several years ago, caused, in part, by outdoor drug markets and prostitutes working the streets.

"We're going to have noise," Simmers said. "Personally, I think it's a good kind of noise."

Bruchey and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said they respect the feelings of residents who live in the downtown area, but noise should be expected in the city's growing Arts and Entertainment District.

"Millions (of dollars) have gone into that area ... It's all part of enriching our downtown," Bruchey said. "I expect the noise level to go up some before it gets better."

Bruchey said he doesn't want progress to come at the cost of others, and pledged to work with downtown residents to help resolve the problem.

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