County Executive Janet S. Owens has offered to create a task force to study noise restrictions in West County to help thousands of residents living in developments surrounded by industrial and commercial activities, and to help the County Council move forward on updating the county's commercial zoning code.
The task force would create a county noise ordinance or other legislation separate from the commercial zoning code, and would decide who should enforce the law. In exchange, the County Council would likely delete any reference to noise restrictions in the zoning bill, according to chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr.
County administrators, testifying before the County Council Monday night, offered Owens' proposal for forming the task force next month, with orders to report back to the council by the end of April.
"Nobody's looked at whether the zoning code is the place for [a noise ordinance], or whether it's a resource issue, and whether we need to figure out who would enforce it," said Marvin Bond, the executive's chief of staff. "It may be that it goes into the health code where there are some nuisance things, or maybe, since it's a state law, we need to address how many more inspectors do we need to enforce it."
Bond said someone from the county police would be a part of the task force, as well as representatives from the health department, the planning and code enforcement office, the law office, County Council and the administration.
The noise issue entered the debate when council members tried to incorporate the state's noise ordinance into the zoning code bill. The bill attempts to update the code for the first time in nearly a decade and to create mixed-use zoning for the planned town centers.
The bill includes noise restrictions for light industrial areas, but not for others. But several planned unit developments in West County -- Russet, Seven Oaks and Piney Orchard, each with thousands of homes -- are surrounded by, or adjacent to, industrial and commercial developments, which also can create noise.
"They're encouraging the mixed use, but they're not making it so that some of the residents are going to be happy living there," said Katharina DeHaas, a member of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association and chairwoman of the Odenton Small Area Planning Committee.
"If you have a discotheque next door, it can make as much noise as a factory," she said.