City Lawmakers Pump Up The Volume On Noise Control

October 10, 1990|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

You could wind up with a criminal record if you play your stereo too loud in Annapolis.

The Annapolis City Council passed a law Monday night that will make it a misdemeanor, punishable by a $50 fine, if a stereo can be heard 50 feet from its source, despite protests from people who thought the law was too strict and would be selectively enforced.

Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8, tried to reduce the offense from a misdemeanor to a municipal infraction, but her effort failed, 5-4. Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, amended the law to exempt rallies and gatherings that have city permits.

Opponents of the law said they may challenge it in court. Led by John Poulos, owner of High-Tech Electronics, they've already contacted Stuart Comstock-Gay, head of the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"When people start to be prosecuted under it, we will be watching how it is enforced and who is charged," Comstock-Gay said. "It's a very suspect law and we will keep an eye on it."

The law was proposed by Alderman John R. Hammond, R-Ward 1, after his constituents in downtown Annapolis complained about loud car stereos in their neighborhood. The law affects all of Annapolis.

Opponents of the law said they feared police would use it to stop suspected drug dealers, or that young people playing rap or rock music would be singled out while adults blasting classical music were ignored.

But Hammond and Alderman Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7, said they thought police wouldn't abuse the law and said a municipal infraction would be tougher to enforce. "I'm sure it wouldn't matter if it's Mozart or AC/DC," DeGraff said. "If it wakes you up, it wakes you up."

While young people, stereo store owners and civil libertarians were bemoaning the bill's passage, downtown residents had much to celebrate.

They also succeeded in defeating a plan by Buddy's Crabs and Ribs owner Harvey Blonder to expand the restaurant's hours and add a comedy club and dancing.

"We had some success tonight," Ward One Residents Association president John Prehn said as he left the meeting.

Blonder's attorney, Alan Hyatt, said his client would probably appeal the council's decision in Circuit Court.

Blonder's proposal was defeated, 6-3, with Snowden, Moyer and Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, voting for it. Blonder's supporters had said the city was singling him out by not allowing him to expand his hours until 2 a.m., a privilege several other downtown bars have.

But opponents said Blonder's proposal went too far and would further disrupt downtown residents. The Department of Planning and Zoning opposed the plan, but supported a similar plan a year ago that called for shorter hours and more limited entertainment.

Charges that Blonder was being treated unfairly led Hammond to propose closing all bars in the city at midnight last month, an idea he dropped quickly when downtown bar owners protested.

In other action last night, the City Council:

* Voted 5-3 to buy 3.6 acres off Forest Drive for $459,000. The county Community Action Agency and South County Residential Projects will use the Greenbriar property to build more than 30 affordable homes.

The council agreed to buy the land despite the opposition of the finance committee, which was concerned about the cost of site work and an old title that set part of the property aside for open space.

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