Advertisement

Hagerstown City Council to look at updating noise ordinance

September 03, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown officials are considering changing the city’s noise ordinance which has not been updated since 1996.

Kathleen A. Maher, the city’s planning director, said Tuesday that the proposed changes were needed to clearly state what entities enforce the ordinance and clean up wording that was considered confusing.

 “It makes it clearer what the city’s intent is,” Maher told the Hagerstown City Council during a work session at City Hall.

New provisions include adding a statement of intent, which was not included previously, and clear definitions of contained terms such as “excessive noise,” “plainly audible” and “day time,” according to a memorandum to the five-member council.

The ordinance update also includes a more detailed list of exemptions, including acceptable noises from household, government entity, public facility and emergency sources, Maher said.

It also contains provisions for special permits that would allow the city clerk to handle certain noise-generating activities otherwise prohibited by the ordinance, she said.

City officials reviewed noise ordinances of 18 other jurisdictions in crafting Hagerstown’s updated decree, which increases the distance for police officers to determine “plainly audible” noise to 100 feet, Maher said. The previous distance was 50 feet.

In the past ordinance, violations were considered a misdemeanor offense,  punishable as a criminal offense.

But under the update, they would be downgraded to a municipal offense, which would be punishable by a civil citation, Maher said.

Hagerstown Police Chief Mark Holtzman joined Maher before the council, noting that the proposed changes would be “a better tool” for police officers.

During the conversation, Councilman Donald F. Munson asked Maher if the noise ordinance update was brought on by certain complaints from city residents, specifically related to a scrap-metal recycling business located along North Prospect Street.

“It’s clear what this is all about,” Munson said.

But Maher said the proposed changes were not initiated by any specific business or complaint.

Holtzman said that there is a section in the city code that deals directly with factory and industrial-type businesses that would apply to that company’s operations, which has prompted complaints about excessive noise from at least one neighboring resident.

Other council members brought up issues related to excessive noise coming from vehicles traveling around the city, specifically from loud music and exhaust systems.

Holtzman said state law governs noise coming from moving vehicles, but the city’s ordinance could be applied to vehicles parked in a municipal parking lot.

Noise violations carry a fine up to $500 for the first offense, and up to $1,000 for additional offenses within a 12-month period, under the current ordinance, which was first adopted in 1967.

By a 4-1 consensus, council members directed city staff members to bring the updated ordinance back for introduction at the regular session meeting on Sept. 24.

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|