OCEAN CITY – Following another summer of noisy problem properties, the Noise Board has proposed amendments to move toward a more peaceful community in the future.
Ocean City Noise Control Board Chairman Brett Wolf came before the Mayor and City Council on Monday to recommend several amendments to Town Code regarding noise.
“We are here asking for changes to the noise code to give us the opportunity to better partner with the police in maintaining peace and quiet while assisting property owners in monitoring their noise levels and a resolution to their noise related problems,” Wolf said. “We believe these changes will provide the Noise Board with the mechanisms necessary to do our job and help a healthy and happy community for our residents and visitors alike. We feel that no one should be subjected to being continually awakened in the middle of the night or being harassed by excessive noise. This type of behavior shines a negative light on Ocean City and affects the quality of like in our community.”
According to the Town Code, “No real property situated within the corporate limits of Ocean City shall be used to provide shelter on a temporary basis unless a permit for such use shall has been issued by the Noise Control Board.”
Currently, on or before May 1 for residential units or on or before June 1 for business rentals, of each year, the following information is required to be submitted. The name, permanent address and telephone number of owner, the location and general description of the property, and the name, address and telephone number of a resident agent, who must reside within the corporate limits of Ocean City if the owner does not reside in the city.
First, the Noise Board requested the following wording be inserted in the code, “An emergency contact name and valid phone number be provided. A noise permit will not be issued without this information.”
“What we found continually over the years is that when people come to the Noise Board their first and biggest complaint is that they weren’t notified in a timely manner and couldn’t address the problem,” Wolf said. “What we found is that property owners are still not providing the emergency contact number or the emergency contact name and the permits are still being issued.”
City Manager David Recor interjected that the first request comes down to the current code being enforced.
With no vote needed, the council was in consent to continue with the code the way it is written but in the future the application will not be accepted unless it is complete.
Councilman Joe Hall suggested adding a definition to “resident agent”. The term is not defined as a hired agent. A resident agent is simply an Ocean City resident who can respond to a noise complaint in a timely manner if the property owner is unable.
The code also states, “It shall be a municipal infraction for the owner of any property for which there must be a permit pursuant … to fail to exercise due diligence … in controlling noise on or emanating from his property, which infraction shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding $400.”
Next, the Noise Board requested “$400” be replaced by “up to $1,000.”
“The reason we want to increase it is two-fold. One is $400 even to the average property owner is not material but secondly … when it isn’t paid there will be a court case … so the police officer involved will be summoned to court, the city will pay them to be there, and the $400 fine is not going to offset the cost the city incurs to levy the fine,” Wolf said.
The council voted to approve the second amendment unanimously.
The Noise Board’s third request was to add the following wording, “If a third or greater incident occurs where the property owner fails to practice due diligence … in controlling noise on or emanating from his property, which infraction shall be punishable by a fine of $2,500.”
City Solicitor Guy Ayes said the Noise Board can fine up to $1,000 for each violation but the problem with the request is that a municipality power of authority to fine is set by state law, which caps the amount a municipality can fine at $1,000.
“We are not looking to be punitive to generate revenue we are looking to obtain peace and quiet,” Wolf said as he explained that not all three fines would be set at $1,000 but the amount would increase from a lower amount up to $1,000 with each violation.
The Noise Board’s final request was to add the following wording, “If a second or greater incident occurs … the property owner is required to appear before the Noise Board. If the property owner is unable to attend the scheduled Noise Board meeting, the property owner must contact the Noise Board and reschedule. If the property owner fails to appear or reschedule, then this will be considered a municipal infraction, which infractions shall be punishable by a fine of $1,000. If the property owner rescheduled within 10 days of receipt of formal notice of the fine and appears before the Noise Board, then the fine will be waived. If the property owner reschedules and fails to appear, the fine will be due.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said, “This is for those who ignore the certified letter because they know sooner or later their tenants are going to be gone … I think this is something you need. They are absolutely working the system and it just stretches out to the end of the summer and then nothing can be done so I think that is important to be able to do that.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the board’s final request.