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Merriweather Pavilion hopes for harmony on noise ordinance

The Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, has been a popular venue for outdoor concerts for more than 40 years. The amphitheater seats about 19,000 and is nestled in 40 acres of forest, according to its website. You would think it would be quiet.

Apparently not. Residents from the area told the Legislature in December that the music is too loud, that law enforcement has failed to enforce noise ordinances, and, in some cases, that their windows and doors a half-mile away from Merriweather shake during concerts. Those residents and others were testifying in response to a venue-sponsored proposal that the state prevent municipal or county governments from instituting a ban on electronic amplification between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Homeowners and business owners may be back in Annapolis soon, because Merriweather has asked to revise its proposal. Rather than an outright ban on local ordinances, the venue would like the legal noise level to be increased from 65 to 95 decibels within a quarter-mile radius of the pavilion and to 72.5 decibels outside the radius.

The quarter-mile mark is not arbitrary: It covers the woods. Merriweather proposes the lower levels for residential areas adjacent to the woods.

Venue management points out that 95 decibels is not any louder than the concerts have been for the last decade or so. The law change would merely formalize the reality. At the initial hearing in December, the same representative told the press that the venue has not violated noise ordinances.

Not all residents opposed even the original ban. They testified that they knew the venue was there and considered it an asset to the area, one that would add to Columbia's quality of life while increasing property values.

No vote on the proposal has been scheduled at this time.

Sources:

The Baltimore Sun, "Merriweather noise legislation gets earful from both sides," Blair Ames, Dec. 23, 2012

The Baltimore Sun, "Merriweather adjusts request for noise limits," Blair Ames, Feb. 13, 2013

Our firm works with homeowners and business owners on zoning issues like the one discussed in this post. If you're interested in learning more about our Annapolis, Maryland, practice, please visit the land use and zoning page of our website.

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