Berlin Council Looks To Tackle Noise Complaints

BERLIN – Live music outside the Atlantic Hotel and continuously running refrigeration units at the icehouse have prompted the town of Berlin to think about buying a decibel meter and getting more specific with the town noise ordinance.

Councilwoman Ellen Lang reported to the council this week that she has had several citizen complaints over recurring noise issues.

The live bands playing outside the Atlantic Hotel are so loud, Lang said, that one 26-year resident of Jefferson St. has put her house up for sale.

“They almost have to leave home the music is so bad,” Lang said.

The hotel occasionally features live musicians on Sunday afternoon cookouts on a grassy strip to the side of the building with one concert held in the rear parking lot.

“We really need to look into this and see if we can work a solution out,” Lang said. “I’ve even had two merchants down on Main St. complain about it.”

In a phone interview yesterday, Atlantic Hotel owner Sam Chmar said the intent of the concert series this summer was to bring more people to town on Sundays.

“The music was definitely too loud for some people. We definitely apologize to them,” said Chmar. “We just want to make everything right for everybody.”

Only one person, who lives across the street from the hotel, complained to the hotel itself, he said.

Chmar said he was in contact with the Berlin police before the concert series and that he made sure to get all necessary permits.

By law, the Atlantic Hotel is permitted to offer live music outside.

“The laws themselves are not written specifically for this,” said Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing.

The hotel is in the Arts and Entertainment District, Downing said.

“They’ve got to be good neighbors. The residents were there before it became an Arts and Entertainment District,” said Lang.

The Berlin Police Department borrowed a noise meter from the Ocean City Police Department to measure decibel levels during a recent musical event outside at the hotel.

According to Downing, the decibel level measured was below Ocean City’s noise ordinance cut-off. Berlin’s noise ordinance does not address specific decibel levels.

“We’ve got to accommodate the business community but we’ve also got to think of the comfort of our citizens,” said Mayor Tom Cardinale.

Chmar said he is looking into offering some different kinds of music next year, to reduce the noise, compared to the rock and reggae bands hosted primarily this year.

Lang suggested sound barriers placed behind the live bands. Chmar said he would consider it.

“We’d do any measures that would be necessary,” said Chmar. “We just want everyone to be happy.”

The residents of the Henry’s Mill development also had complaints about noise recently. The noise from the ice factory trucks’ refrigeration units, which are left running overnight to maintain freezing temperatures, is too loud and disturbing, they say.

Tom Collins, president of Kool Ice, the owner of the icehouse, has not responded to a letter from the development asking for some relief.

Two years ago, Collins appeared before the council to respond to similar concerns and told the council he had taken steps to reduce the noise penetration into nearby residential neighborhoods.

“We’ve already tried to make it better,” Collins said two years ago. “We’ve re-parked the trucks from the east side of the street to the west side to get them away from the residents a little, and we’ve tried to modernize the plant with new coolers and other technology to make it much quieter and more efficient.”

Collins said this week in a phone interview there is nothing more Kool Ice can do.

Apparently, that has not been enough to satisfy the neighbors, but there is little the town can do.        

“There’s no limit at all with the ice plant,” Downing said.

The noise ordinance does not cover legitimate business or industrial noise.       

“We certainly conform to all zoning laws,” Collins said. “We’ve done all we need to do. Maybe on the residents’ side they need to do something.”

The council might need to change the law, Downing said.

The icehouse has been in place for 76 years and under Kool Ice ownership for the last 10. The plant operates roughly from April to October.

“Unfortunately, they built residences right up next to an established commercial operation,” Collins said.

Lang asked the rest of the town council to write another letter to the ice plant owner.

“This has been discussed every year for the past three years,” Downing said. “The problem doesn’t get solved. It just goes away for awhile.”

Sound barriers between the plant and the residences might alleviate the problem, Lang said.

Cardinale asked town attorney Dave Gaskill to look into state noise law for guidance.