In 2013, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1514 which effectively raised the noise levels at Merriweather Post Pavilion to 95 DBA from 9 am to 11 pm. It is generally assumed by most people that this only applies in Howard County to MPP. While that is true, it is also not entirely correct.
The Maryland Constitution prohibits special legislation that only applies to one entity. Therefore, the statute never uses the word “Merriweather.” Nor does it describes Merriweather with any specificity. It just refers to it as “an outdoor concert venue with a capacity of over 15,000 individuals.” While it is true that only Merriweather currently meets this definition today, this does not mean that some other venue might one day meet the definition. The courts have found that there is no special legislation if it is possible, no matter how unlikely, that the statute may apply to some other individual or entity.
The statute does not define “outdoor concert venue.” It does not require that the venue is permanent. It does not require covered seating. It does not even require seating. It does not specify a paved area for the spectators. It does not require bathrooms with indoor plumbing. Essentially it says nothing other than that it have the CAPACITY for 15,000–not the attendance of 15,000. It need not have ever actually had 15,000 in attendance nor even have an expectation that 15,000 will actually attend an event. All that is required is that there be capacity for 15,000. Apparently, even standing room only for 15,000.
At 2 square feet per person, 15,000 will take 30,000 square feet. At 3 square feet per person, 45,000 square feet would be required. Assume one needed 5 square feet per person, then this would require 75,000 square feet. An acre is 43,560 square feet. Two acres is 87,120 square feet. So to have a capacity of 15,000 individuals, all that is needed is about 1 to 2 acres.
Therefore, it is possible that many so-called outdoor concert venues in Howard County could have capacity for 15,000 and thus claim that the 95 DBA limit applies to their event. This might include the Sunset Serenades in Centennial Park. Clark’s Elioak Farm could decide to hold a special concert event on their farmland. The Howard County Fairgrounds could possibly have an outdoor event with room for 15,000. Glenelg Country School could lease their 90-acres for an outdoor concert event. An event in Symphony Woods at the Chrysalis could also possibly hold 15,000. The list could go on; think of all the farmland that could host a Woodstock style event.
The Merriweather Noise Statute is a badly flawed bill that should never have been passed. Only in Howard County are sounds of 95 DBA permitted in Maryland.
Why did we permit our state representatives, which include our current County Executive, to pass this unconstitutional law?
More on that at a future time.