Two North Carroll towns are independently wrestling with the wording of proposed noise ordinances, trying to decide what noise is, when it is noise and what to do about it.
Hampstead officials will introduce a noise ordinance tonight at the monthly Town Council meeting, which was postponed from Tuesday. That night, Manchester's Town Council tabled a discussion on drafting a noise ordinance after debating whether to include references to decibel levels and the distance from which noise can be heard.
"It's a tricky issue," said Manchester Mayor Chris D'Amario. "We sure don't want to put something into the Town Code that we risk violating when we sponsor Manchester Day" (a festival).
Manchester Councilman Joe Jordan said the town needs to revise its code on noise, which is so vague, "anyone playing a radio on a street or in a public place is technically violating the law."
Manchester Councilwoman Mary Minderlein said she had contacted officials in Prince George's County and Ocean City to solicit wording on noise ordinances, but had not decided what should be written into a town ordinance.
Hampstead has no noise ordinance and has been looking to Manchester and other towns for a model ordinance.
Officials in both towns have learned that noise must be defined before prohibitions against it can be specified.
"Country music may be noise to some, but not to others," D'Amario pointed out.
D'Amario asked the council to do more research and return next month with a better sense of what should be included in a noise ordinance.
Hampstead officials will introduce a two-page proposed ordinance that prohibits anyone from operating or allowing to be operated "upon premises or vehicles under his control any radio or sound transmission device upon the public streets or public places within the town of Hampstead."
It also would prohibit using a sound truck or other device for amplification within the town limits unless the operator obtains a license from the mayor and Town Council. Licenses would not be issued for commercial advertising.
The proposed ordinance would ban playing of radios, televisions, phonographs and other sound transmission devices within the town limits in "such a manner that the same creates unnecessary noise."
"Unnecessary noise" is defined as "sound that is loud, unexpected, or undesired that causes a random or persistent disturbance."
Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin referred questions about the proposed ordinance yesterday to Councilman Haven N. Shoemaker, who helped draft it.
Shoemaker said he expected the draft would need fine tuning.
"We may have to consider adding a decibel level, or some objective way for police to enforce it, but then you need to have a device to measure it," he said.
Nevin agreed that common sense will help answer some questions.
"I would consider noise from a town festival as `necessary,' " Nevin said.
Hampstead's proposed penalty for violating the noise ordinance is a $100 fine for each offense and for each day an offense occurs.
In other council business, Nevin said the council might name a town manager and appoint a council member to replace Wendy Martin, who resigned.
Nevin said two people are finalists for the town manager post. He said four people have expressed interest in completing Martin's term.