Changes Proposed For Frederick County’s Noise Ordinance

One would make it a civil infraction, not a criminal offense.

Frederick, Md. (KM)  Citizens will have a chance to comment next month on changes to Frederick County’s noise ordinance. During her public information briefing on Tuesday, County Executive Jan Gardner said two pieces of legislation covering noise were introduced to the County Council on Monday.

“Noise can affect the quality of life that our  citizens have come to expect and enjoy in Frederick County,” said Gardner. “Residents certainly have a right to enjoy their property and to be free of noise levels that jeopardize their ability to enjoy their property and their homes,” she said.

One measure would make violations of the noise ordinance a civil offense rather than a criminal offense, which means that Sheriff’s Deputies would issue citations and fines to violators. “So the new legislation, which makes a civil offense, sets fines for first time offenses from  $25 to $50,” says Gardner. “And then allows those fines to escalate over time to a higher level for a maximum ranging from $500 to $1000.”

She  says she was a County Commissioner when the original ordinance was drafted to make noise violations a criminal offense. “It would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” she says. “And that’s a very high standard for the Sheriff’s Office to try to enforce.”

A second measure would establish a process for handling these civil infractions. The legislation would set maximum allowable levels at 65-decibels in residential communities during the daytime, which are the hours between 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM; at night, from 10:00 PM until 7:00 AM, the decibel level would be 55. A person would not be allowed to generate noise levels for construction or explosion type activities of 90-decibels during the daytime. There are also provisions covering off road vehicles, dirt bikes, all terrain vehicles, go carts, snowmobiles.

The exceptions to the ordinance would be devices which warn citizens; household tools and portable appliances during normal usage; lawn care and snow removal equipment during daytime hours; agricultural machinery; blasting operations between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM; motor vehicles on public roads; aircraft at airports; emergency operations; and boats on the water and state lands under the jurisdiction of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Gardner says the two bills were introduced by the County Council on Monday. A public hearing is expected to take place on Tuesday,September 6th.