Friday, March 17, 2006

ANC: Council Should Take Action on Noise by March 31

Echoing January action by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C (ANC6C), a second ANC has asked the District of Columbia City Council to fix its apparently flawed noise statute.

During its monthly meeting on March 9, ANC6A unanimously voted to formally request that the District of Columbia City Council consider amending the “Georgetown Project and Noise Control Amendment Act of 2004” in order to modify an exception currently contained in the noise ordinance that permits amplified free speech on the city’s public streets.

In a letter to Councilmember Jim Graham, chair of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, ANC6A said that a December 2005 opinion letter from the Office of the Attorney General clearly states that the now amended Noise Control Act of 1977 exempts the following: “A sound shall not be considered a noise disturbance if made during noncommercial public speaking during the daytime.”

“This allows the use of an amplifier on any residential street in our city,” said the ANC to Graham, whose committee has jurisdiction over the noise issue.

The ANC letter was distributed to Councilmember Chair Linda Cropp; Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose; Councilmember Jack Evans--who sponsored the 2004 Georgetown noise amendment--and three members of Graham’s committee: Councilmembers Kwame R. Brown, David Catania, and Adrian Fenty. Deputy Attorney General David M. Rubenstein also received a copy.

The ANC6A letter states:

Currently, members of the Israelite Church of God and Jesus Christ, Inc. gather on Saturdays at the corner of Eighth and H Streets, NE to exercise their right of free speech. This group often uses an amplifier to deliver their religious message. The use of the amplifier projects the sound to the surrounding streets in all directions disturbing the peace, order and quiet of our neighborhood. Please see attached article that recently appeared in the Voice of the Hill newspaper.

We have no objection to the group or their religious speech. Our objection is the use of the powered amplifier. Over the last year, we have been working with the residents, Metropolitan Police Department, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of the Attorney General to try to resolve this issue. We appear to be at a bureaucratic / legislative stand-off--the agencies state they can not act due to the law and the Council has yet to consider modifying the noise ordinance. In the meantime, the residents continue to suffer.

In close, we are appealing to the Council sense of propriety to adopt an amendment by March 31, 2006, to solve this problem. The continued silence of Council perpetuates the bureaucratic vacuum of indecision that denies residents the peace and quiet they are entitled to in a residential community.

Let’s hope the City Council can provide our neighborhood some relief--while ensuring protection from this type of behavior for other residential communities in the District of Columbia.


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