Heselton to rewrite anti-noise proposal Business protests prompt changes

November 07, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

A proposed ordinance aimed at late-night noisemakers may have to be weakened if it's to become law.

The bill's sponsor, Councilwoman Susan B. Heselton, R-District A, says a strong protest from business leaders has persuaded her to rewrite the legislation.

The proposal brought before council in September prohibits "any noise" that can be heard from a residential property at least 50 feet away between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

After an initial warning, the offender could be fined up to $1,000. The law would be enforced by county sheriff's deputies, who are frequently summoned to quell neighborhood noise.

But several business owners and members of the Harford

County Chamber of Commerce balked at the bill. They said it would interfere with businesses that operate after 11 p.m. and could discourage new industry from moving into the county.

Mrs. Heselton is expected to introduce amendments to the bill at Tuesday's council meeting that will placate its strongest critics and still serve the citizen who wants to quiet a neighbor's loud party or booming stereo at 2 a.m.

The councilwoman's amended legislation specifically defines the offensive noise to include voices, radios, musical instruments, stereos and household equipment and tools.

It also adds business and industry to the list of excluded noisemakers, which includes fire and ambulance sirens, emergency work by public service companies and farm equipment. The effective hours would not change.

"I think we have to crawl before we can walk," said Mrs. Heselton of her concession to business interests.

"For the time, it's a compromise. Besides, I had many more complaints about neighbors [making noise] than about business," she said.

The councilwoman said the bill grew out of constituents' complaints during the past year about loud stereos in cars and homes, rock bands playing outdoors, late-night parties and other residential noises well past midnight.

She said letters and phone calls from the public in the past two months have been "overwhelmingly in favor" of the ordinance.

Among the bill's detractors was James Martin, plant engineering manager for Clorox.

"Our main concern with the original bill was that it could adversely effect businesses that work around the clock," he said, noting that trucks routinely make deliveries to the Perryman plant during the night.

He said he feared the anti-noise concept could hurt the county as a whole by discouraging major companies that operate 24 hours a day from moving to Harford. He said Clorox will support the amended bill.

Christian Wilson, co-chairman of the legislative committee of Harford's Chamber of Commerce, said he believed most members agreed with him in opposing the idea of limiting noise from business operations.

"We as a society attempt to solve all our problems with legislation," said Mr. Wilson.

"But it just creates another level of compliance that the small-business person is ill-equipped to handle. Ultimately it puts the burden on the consumers."

But others in the county fear the bill doesn't go far enough. During a public hearing on the proposed law last month, Herb Jonas said "I just hope this covers auto body and fender work at 2 a.m."

Mr. Jonas, who lives on Paradise Road, said he objects to the idea of any business being allowed to create a disturbance during the night.

The bill, as amended, would exclude noise from any-size business or industrial facility.

Harford County is one of the few jurisdictions in the metropolitan area without a noise ordinance.

Mrs. Heselton's proposal is modeled after the Anne Arundel County law, which relies on police officers responding to a complaint to judge whether the noise violates the law.

Similar ordinances exist in the municipalities of Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, all of which have started or strengthened their laws within the past year.

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