On The Coast: A Beach Town Debates The Meaning Of Noise (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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On The Coast: A Beach Town Debates The Meaning Of Noise

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
I'm Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we're talking borders and boundaries. And before the break, we heard about some rather literal boundaries here in D.C. You know, geographic boundaries. Well, up next we'll be hearing about some borders and boundaries that are a little more squishy. For example, how do we draw the boundary between silence, comfortable levels of sound and more of a roar?

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:41
Well, it's the topic of this week's "On The Coast" in which Coastal reporter Bryan Russo gets us up to speed on what's happening on the eastern shore of Maryland and in Coastal Delaware. And this Memorial Day weekend, Bryan takes us to Dewey Beach, which has been mired in a big debate all about noise.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

00:01:02
Ask most people in the coast and they'll tell you Dewey Beach has a reputation as a party town.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

00:01:10
What some people see as rollicking good time, others see as a major impediment to a good night's sleep.

MR. JIM DEDES

00:01:16
You know, it's sort of like you turn on the fans, you shut every window, you turn on the air conditioner. We've even got white noise to try to drown out the music.

RUSSO

00:01:25
That's Jim Dedes, the chair of the Dewey Beach ad hoc committee on noise. I caught up with recently, not long enough until the Maryland Town Council voted in favor of his committee's proposal to lower the allowable noise level to 70 decibels during the day and 60 decibels after 10 p.m. Dedes says the new restrictions are a necessity.

DEDES

00:01:44
There's no way you can sleep with your windows open at all. That's impossible. And let alone having your windows closed, you still can hear the music and you can hear the bass just pronounced. It vibrates into your home. So it's become an issue. And this is something that's really a recent phenomena in Dewey. So we lived with it for a couple of years. And as the noise progressed, so did the complaints.

RUSSO

00:02:09
As we're sitting here on your porch, what does it sound like on your porch on a Friday night in summer?

DEDES

00:02:14
You can hear the words, you can hear the music. You can feel the bass level. You can actually feel it on your chest sometimes. I mean, and it vibrates. And if you put your hand on the window, you can feel the vibration. You can actually even keep tune to the beat. It's that loud. And that's what we've heard and that's what a lot of the citizens have complained about.

RUSSO

00:02:32
Businesses that violate this new law could face fines of $500 to $1,150. Repeat offenders could lose their business licenses entirely. And, you know, as you said, police are going to be, you know, taking sound readings and walking around the streets and gauging what levels are going to be too loud. So, I guess, is there kind of a time period where everyone can adjust to this or are the police instructed to go out straight away and start writing fines?

DEDES

00:02:59
Well, you know, I've talked to the chief and, you know -- first of all, the chief isn't going to be going out and issuing, you know, issuing citations and fines. I think the first course of action, which is, you know, we've gotten a complaint. You need to, you know, tone the music down. And the warning is really where we're looking for. I mean, no one's interested in putting people out of business. That's not where we're coming from.

RUSSO

00:03:22
But many restaurant and bar owners are unhappy with the lower noise levels. Mitchell King is the co-owner of Port, a relatively new restaurant in Dewey Beach. And he says this restriction could have a major impact on his business.

MR. MITCHELL KING

00:03:34
Generally, we're a restaurant that provides live music. We do happen to have a very nice bar. But with the live music, it's a draw for people to stay longer and enjoy their dinner. And we're trying to provide a service that no one else does here. And by taking that away from us, it's threatening our livelihoods.

RUSSO

00:03:51
The old rule was 80 decibels then down to 75 at night. The new rule, if I'm right, is 70 and 60 respectively. Sixty decibels at night is not very loud. That's, you know, that's kind of conversation if, you know, depending on the statistics that you read. A boisterous conversation between two or three people can sometimes go over 60 decibels. Do you think it's going to bring everybody inside and not have people allow folks to sit outside and dine?

KING

00:04:20
I firmly believe it will. We have an outdoor deck with sitting out on the deck. And if people are out there eating and enjoying themselves, it's over 60. It's actually over 70, you know, in the early hours. You know, right now, you and I having this conversation with my noise meter in my hand, we're actually in violation at 60, 55, 60.

RUSSO

00:04:40
So do you think that there's a compromise in this debate? What do you think the magic number could be if you believe that 70 and 60 respectively is too low?

KING

00:04:49
I mean, 70, 72 at night is reasonable. And, you know, the whole law was based on what a reasonable person thinks. Eighty during the day, that's fine. Road noise is that, the waves crushing out on the beach are 80 dBs. You know, you don't hear people complaining about that. But you hear a little bit of music in the background, they think, oh, I hear music, it's too loud.

RUSSO

00:05:08
There's been some people that say that the older community or the folks that just want more of a quiet lifestyle that maybe don't go out to the bars and the restaurants at night really want to make a change, a substantial change in the way Dewey operates in the evening. What's your feeling on that?

KING

00:05:26
Absolutely true. Older people that have come into this town, they should have been forewarned knowing in advance. Hey, Dewey is a party town. Dewey Beach, it's a way of life. It's been legendary for fifty-some years.

SHEIR

00:05:38
That was Mitchell King of Port in Dewey Beach talking with WAMU's Bryan Russo, who we should point out, is also a musician on the coast. What do you think is the boundary between reasonable and unbearable when it comes to noise. You can reach us at metro@wamu.org or send us a tweet. Our handle is @wamumetro.
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