OCEAN CITY – Discussions on revising the town’s Boardwalk noise ordinance highlighted a resort commission meeting this week.
Last August, the town contracted with an engineering firm to take sound measurements at different locations and times on the Boardwalk to determine if the town’s noise ordinance needed to be amended. And late last month, the firm’s representatives presented their findings and recommendations to the Mayor and Council.
“The goal was to differentiate standard normal activities and establish a baseline,” RK&K consultant Kevin Hughes said at the time. “Those baseline conditions can then be compared to other activities such as performances, for example.”
From its study, the consultant recommended a baseline ambient noise level of 64 decibels (dBA) for areas of the Boardwalk south of 12th Street and 59 decibels for quieter sections north of 12th Street. The consultant also recommended an allowable decibel level above the established baseline by 11 decibels, and measuring decibel levels at a distance of 15 feet for a duration of 10 seconds.
The council ultimately directed its legal counsel to draft a revised noise ordinance for the Boardwalk and present it to the Ocean City Police Commission for a recommendation.
On Monday, attorney Maureen Howarth told commission members she was seeking their thoughts on the proposed ordinance before submitting a draft to the full council.
“If they are over the dBA citation limit they can be cited,” she explained. “If they are under it, they cannot be cited.”
When asked about taking sound measurements and calibrating the equipment, Ocean City Police Department Lt. Dennis Eade explained officers would be trained.
“And the engineers will take a look at them prior to our season to make sure they are all up to date and ready to go,” he added.
Howarth also asked law enforcement officials if they had concerns about taking noise readings from a 15-foot distance. Eade noted that the department would follow the consultant’s recommendation.
“Obviously that’s going to put us up close and personal with the folks we’re measuring, and that’s fine,” he said. “They are going to see us take the measurements and turn the volume down, something of that nature. But being sneaky about getting measurements at 15 feet … we’ll make it work.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said that was fine, so long as it deterred people from violating the town’s noise ordinance.
“Just by being proactive and having an ordinance in place that we could effectively enforce should discourage some of that noise to begin with,” he said.
Howarth added that the ordinance ensured everyone was treated the same.
“It also allows the performers and businesses to express themselves,” she said, “but at an appropriate level.”
Commission members this week also questioned if noise ordinance violations would be complaint-driven.
“I think it’s pretty bad if we have an officer walk by, knows it’s a violation and keeps walking because they can’t do anything,” City Manager Doug Miller said.
Councilman Lloyd Martin agreed.
“It shouldn’t be complaint driven …,” he said. “Whatever it is, they should be able to address it.”
Howarth told commission members a draft ordinance would be introduced at the council’s first meeting in April, allowing officials time to adopt the ordinance ahead of the summer season.
“The sooner the better …,” Meehan said. “It’s best to start out being consistent early than placing catch-up. Setting the tone is very important.”