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August 20, 1993     Cape Gazette
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August 20, 1993

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CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, August 20 - August 26, 1993 - 3 Rehoboth noise ordinance leaves business people feeling betrayed By Cordelia Macintire The Rehoboth Beach Commis- sioners' Friday, August 13th approval of a new "noise" ordi- nance ended months of disagree- ment and haggling among the affected parties. Or did it? In the mere week since the new ordi- nance was adopted, certain of its contents have fueled a rash of controversies. At the forefront of the disputes are two provisions of the new ordinance. One pertains to the def- inition of "daytime hours," the other to the means by which the noise levels are to be measured. On a more subtle level, argu- ments are brewing over what some businesspeople believe to be the ordinance's (i.e, the city's) implied disregard for their inter- ests, and the perceived favoritism shown to "FunLand," which was given an exemption from the rules governing other businesses. "Day time" hours serve as the boundary times for permitted lev- els of noise. The new law desig- nates 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. as "day time" hours (up to 65 dBA resi- dential, 70 dBA commercial); 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. as "night time" hours, when less noise is permit- ted (up to 55 dBA residential and commercial). Under the new ordi- nance, these time frames are in effect seven days a week, year round. The previous ordinance extended "day time" to 1 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from May 15 to Septem- ber 15. The second point of contention focuses on the methods by which the noise levels are to be mea- sured. The new ordinance allows for measurement by either a deci- bel meter, or the perception of a "reasonable person." (The old ordinance required a meter read- ing.) The police officer respond- ing to the scene of the noise is authorized to make the decision as to which means of measurement to employ. Critics are concerned that the either/or method of measuring the noise opens the door for abuse. The "reasonable person" clause, they claim, is too subjective and could result in harassment of a given business, which may not in fact, be in violation were a meter reading to be taken. "The decision as to which method of sound measurement to use is at the discretion of the police," explained Greg Ferrese, city manager. "If the officer feels it is not reasonable, he can make that judgment. If the alleged vio- lator asks for a meier reading, I would hope the police would take one." City Solicitor N. Maxson Terry stressed that the "reasonable per- son" clause is typical of other ordinances. "The use of a reason- able person is standard," he said. "A decibel reading isn't necessary for the charge to hold up, for a judge to be convinced that a rea- sonable person would have been annoyed." The changes have angered members of the Rehoboth Beach- Dewey Beach Chamber of Com- merce, the Downtown Business Association and the Rehoboth Beach Restaurant Association, as well as other citizens, for several reasons. First, these groups are upset because they fear their business- es, particularly those offering musical entertainment, will be adversely affected. They were giv- en to understand that the 1 a.m. weekend provision, which they advocated, was set to be included in the new ordinance. (It appeared in what was termed the "final draft".) The Commissioners amended that section to read 11 p.m. only minutes before the final vote. Secondly, some feel betrayed and have lost faith in the idea of a cooperative relationship between Rehoboth businesses and city gov- ernment. According to spokesper- sons for the Chamber and the Restaurant Association, their members had several meetings with Commissioner Jan Konesey in which they were asked for their suggestions and criticisms, and were led to believe that their con- cerns and requests would be addressed. (Konesey spearheaded a committee which prompted the revisions. The committee mem- bers' names were never revealed.) "We were asked for our input on the final draft of this ordinance and we focused on items of major importance to us, one of which was the 1 a.m. provision," said Bitsy Cochran, Chamber of Com- merce President. "We will go into future negotiations without so much good faith." At the meeting, Konesey stated that she had never been in agree- ment with the 1 a.m. cut-off. "I've looked at lots of ordinances and I can't find any, except Dewey Beach, (which goes til midnight,) that go past 11 p.m." Rehoboth Beach Restaurant Association President Sydney Arzt expressed her concern both for the deteriorating status of the relationship between city govern- ment and city business owners, and for Rehoboth's reputation with the vacationing public. 'q'he conversation is that a lot of responsible business owners will be leaving Rehoboth," said Arzt. "I don't understand Why the Com- missioners don't see the incredibly bad press they've created for Rehoboth this summer, and what the overall effect will be on this little town." Also raising eyebrows is the Commissioners' decision to include an exemp?ion, or more specifically, an extension, of per- missible noise levels to Funland amusement park. Under the pro- vision, Funland can continue to emit "day time" decibel levels until midnight, one hour after everyone else has to quiet down. Konesey defended the exemp- tion on the grounds that, "Funland is a Rehoboth family institution," and that other towns, Ocean City, for example, had similar exemp- tions for amusement parks. "We need to recognize the unique nature of amusement parks," said Konesey, in response to a charge of inconsistency and favoritism made by a spectator at the meeting. Allen Fasnacht, Funland owner, was not present at the meeting. According to Konesey, Fasnacht had not sought the exemption. "I never sought it out," Fasnacht stated later, "and I have mixed feelings about it. I'm not sure what's going on because I've yet to see the ordinance. The provi- sions of that ordinance have gone up and down like a yo-yo." Strand's Elkins getting flak over noise and ownership allegations By Cordelia Macintire The Saturday night arrest of Steve Elkins, owner of the Strand dance club on Rehoboth Avenue, has been cited as an example of the type of disputes the city's new noise ordinance may engender. According to Elkins, he was cited for excessive noise levels through the "reasonable person" method of noise measurement; no decibel meter was employed. Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Creig Doyle, the responding officer, has been unavailable for comment. Elkins suspects that the sound levels emanating from his club were under the decibel limit. He fears that since ameter reading is not required, he will be visited, and possibly cited, more often by police than he would be were a meter reading required. And although the charges against Elkins were dropped because the ordinance was not yet in effect at the time of his arrest, he expects more of the same when the new law is enacted. "This ordinance is inviting problems. I'm the victim of a very blatant pattern of harassment. I've been manager here three summers and never have I been in violation of the (old) noise ordinance. If it's not anti-gay, its anti-me." The complainants in this case, Raymond and Bertha Pusey of Baltimore Avenue, insist their agenda isn't anti-anyone, it's pro-sleep. "The technology of today's noise meters has not caught up with today's bass technology. We usual- ly hear the bass in our bedroom," said Mrs. Pusey. "The one constant in Steve Elkins' life is every time I hear boom, boom, boom, I'm going to have him arrested." In addition to protesting noise at the Strand, the Puseys have alleged that Elkins is not the true owner of it, nor of the Surfside Diner/West Side Care located below. The Puseys have instigated an Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) investigation on the issue. If it is proven that Elkins has misrepresented the ownership of those ground level eateries, they could lose their condi- tional liquor licenses. All three establishments are owned by Route 13; Inc. According to Elkins he is the sole shareholder, having acquired the shares of former partners Joyce Felton, Victor Pisapia and Eugene Lawton between November of 1991 and November of 1992. According to the ABCC, a heating to determine true ownership is scheduled for mid-October. To add to Elkins' headaches, Lawson has filed to force Route 13 into Chapter Seven Bankruptcy, claiming Route 13 has not made timely payments on debts owed him and others. Elkins claims he is current with his payments and his businesses are financially responsible. Because of an equipment problem at our printing company, subscribers this week did not receive their Cape Gazette in its usual plastic packaging. The problem will be cor- rected next week. - Dennis Forney Now, SAVE UP TO 75% ON SUMMER SAVE 75% of SPORT COATS 50% - 60% on a 00ele00ion of FANCY SHORTS SHOES * SHIRTS SUITS SLACKS SWEATERS 50% To ThE RIDICULOUS ATTHE SIDEWALK SALE THIS WEEKEND!! 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