Howard County Blog

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Example in Why We Need to Get Creative in Preventing Ex Pose Facto NIMBYs

The Flier tonight runs an excellent example of why we need to get creative in preventing ex pose facto Not in My Back Yarders (NIMBY). In a letter to the editor with the ironic title “Now that pavilion is saved, please make it quieter” Regina Brown argues:

The "crown jewel" of Columbia (Our view, May 11) would be a lot better appreciated by this resident if we all didn't have to hear the howls and reverberations of the "concerts."

OK, so it's a national treasure, just answer me this: Does it matter to anyone that those who don't appreciate that kind of music must be subjected to horrible wailing and thudding late at night? Can't you have a concert without forcing those of us who don't enjoy it to participate?

If so much time and effort can be spent in making this venue a comeback, how about a little noise control? Think about it, please. It even scares my dogs.

To think a concert venue would be noisy?!? Really. I wish people like Mrs. Brown would stop to think that in order for the pavilion to be saved it must be economically viable and that means it needs to put on concerts that people will pay to attend. There is a diversity of these types of concerts and Merriweather is doing a superb job of covering that full range from Wine in the Woods to the HFStival. Not every concert will be everyone’s type of music, but lets not start attacking other people's tastes. If you choose to live near a concert venue you will get concert noise. Having grown up in Columbia and gone to Oakland Mills High School I have long know from my high school classmates that lived in Oakland Mills that concert noise can be heard in Oakland Mills. I have raise this at the charrette and at the Focus Group in terms of the new residental units to be built much closer to Merriweather in the Crescent, but sadly the FAQ the Department on Planning and Zoning does not include the greatest and cheapest way to mitigate Ex Pose Facto NIMBY by making sure future tenants know they are moving next to a concert venue and that they have no grounds to object to the noise.

Let’s cut this NIMBY stuff off at its knees. We know that most house hunting does not take place on Friday and Saturday evenings when most concerts happen, so many people are a little dense about the extent of concert noise. We also know that most people don’t read that giant stack of papers they get and have to sign when the close on a property. (The people at my closing looked at me like I was crazy when I sat there reading everything I had not gotten in advance, thankfully for them my realtor was great and had gotten me most of that paperwork to early or we might still be sitting at my closing, but I know I am the very rare exception). So we need to get creative. As I mentioned at the charrette, for very little cost a 10 foot by 10 foot noise simulation room can be built in one of the buildings in the Crescent and require that before anyone sign to be a tenant in the complex they must spend 10 minutes in the room listening to concert level decibels. The cost of this is miniscule compared to the cost of time and money wasted fighting Ex Pose Facto NIMBY, so let’s cut them off at the pass. I strongly believe there is a market of people who will want to live where they can hear the concerts, but let’s make sure those who move in know the extent of the concert noise.

And while we are on the issue of what market will want to live next to a concert venue, one of the prime markets is young professionals, but in order to attract this market the units will have to be prices in a range young professionals can afford. To restate one of my earlier post on what a young professional that works for the federal government (one of our areas major employers) can afford:

A lot of people in our community work for the Federal Government so this could be a good starting point. The government pay scale in our area is:

Grade 1 Step 1 - $19,214

Grade 2 Step 1 - $21,602

Grade 3 Step 1 - $23,571

Grade 4 Step 1 - $26,460

Grade 5 Step 1 - $29,604

Grade 6 Step 1 - $33,000

Grade 7 Step 1 - $36,671

Grade 8 Step 1 - $40,612

Grade 9 Step 1 - $44,856

Grade 10 Step 1 - $49,397

Grade 11 Step 1 - $54,272

Grade 12 Step 1 - $65,048

Grade 13 Step 1 - $77,353

Grade 14 Step 1 - $91,407

Grade 15 Step 1 - $107,521

If you are starting with a college degree you are probably starting at a GS 5 Step 1 or a GS 7 Step 1 and if you are starting with a Masters degree you are probably starting with either a GS 7 Step 1 or a GS 9 Step 1. This means that many young professional in our area will have salaries in the $30,000 to $45,000 range. If the calculation of what a person can afford to purchase is three times their annual income, then these young professionals would be looking for properties in the $90,000 to $135,000 range. You currently cannot find a condo in Howard County in that range, nor are there very many apartments that could be rented by people making this range of income. When I bought my one bedroom one bath condo 2.5 years ago I bought it for $110,500. A couple months ago an identical unit went for $205,000.


Blogger Hayduke said...

I actually moved to Oakland Mills in hopes of being able to hear concerts from my deck. Alas, I think I'm a little too far south -- despite straining our ears, we heard nothing during the most recent concert, Fall Out Boy.

Perhaps Ms. Brown would like to trade houses with me?

By the way, in response to an earlier post concerts can go to 11 pm.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it fair to identify people who just want neighboring homes and businesses to comply with existing noise laws as NIMBYs? And, as to new homeowners near Merriweather being asked to relinquish their protections under these existing noise laws, didn't the noise laws exist before Merriweather? Last time I checked, the laws didn't afford Merriweather any special exceptions.

Both County and State noise laws do apply and, if read literally, State code may be more restrictive.

I don't think residents should be required to seek shelter from noise that exceeds these laws during concerts. They should be allowed the same full enjoyment of their properties as anyone anywhere else in the County, being allowed to enjoy evenings in their yards or sleeping with their windows open.

Developers wanting to build near noisy roads (where noise exceeds 65 dB I believe) are currently required to use noise mitigation (berms, solid fencing, insulated homes, etc.). Unfortunately, many of these noise mitigation methods won't be effective for non-ground floor residences of the higher-density housing proposed for the Crescent.

Perhaps any town center zoning code that is added should require both further noise mitigation on Merriweather's part and noise mitigation on the Crescent developers' part, the combination of which would allow new residents full enjoyment of their homes?

I grew up hearing concerts from 1½ miles behind Merriweather, albeit not a nuisance from that distance and volumes depended on performer and atmospheric conditions. Things did get much quieter during the '80's, but I still imagine new homes 10 times closer will need considerable forethought to avoid concert noise being a problem.

11:57 AM  
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