Council nears vote on noise bill Foes of measure air their views

September 08, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Council was moving last night toward devising what it hopes will be a cure for the malady known as the noisy neighbor.

The council was preparing to vote on a bill to ban music or other noise that can be heard from 50 feet away in a residential area. The passage came despite a litany of complaints, many of them from young people who said it would infringe on their rights.

Phil Marshner Jr., 19, of Stevensville on Kent Island, said he feels he is already targeted by police on his frequent trips into the county when they see his yellow, low-rider convertible pickup truck. "Because my truck is an eye-catcher and I'm a kid, I get stopped," he said. "And this is just going to give them another excuse."

"This ordinance will be an absolute and total discrimination," said Carl Tripodi, 28, of Annapolis. "It's just another ridiculous and petty law to keep the police from doing their job."

Juliann Swanson of Annapolis worried that the ordinance would prevent her from practicing her piano, "which my neighbors can definitely hear from 50 feet away," she said. "The last thing I want is for my tax dollars to pay for police officers to ticket young people for playing their stereos too loud."

Under the bill, modeled on an Annapolis ordinance, violators could be fined $50 for a first offense. Fines would rise by $50 for each subsequent offense and could skyrocket to $500 after the fourth citation, along with a jail term of no more than 30 days. Although an officer may give a warning before issuing a citation, none is required.

The proposed law provides exceptions for government functions; certain service companies such as utilities and trash collectors; those with valid permits for an activity; the activities of charities, schools, or other nonprofit civic or community organizations; and farming activities.

The parade of young people who testified against the bill gave some council members an opportunity to offer a civics lesson to them on competing rights in society.

Brian Angell of Cordova in Talbot County complained that the bill would infringe on his constitutional pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Council Chairman David Boschert took him on.

"Do you feel this [playing a stereo loudly] is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or is it an aggravation?" Mr. Boschert asked. "If they would live by the rules, we wouldn't have this stuff."

Mr. Boschert, who once was a member of a rock band, noted that he likes his music on occasion. "If I'm going down I-95, hey, 'Born to be Wild,' " the Crownsville Democrat said. "But if I'm in the city, I have to be a little more respectful."

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, who also admitted to cranking up his music from time to time, said he was concerned about the law being used to harass young people, but he did not feel that would happen with the law as it was written.

"While I understand a lot of young people's worry over it, I think at the same time you need some kind of noise control," Mr. Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat, said.

Councilman Carl G. Holland, a Pasadena Republican and the bill's sponsor, said, "It's not a witch hunt . . . It's for [police officers] to do their job. Don't make this into something it's not."

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