Judge Temporarily Blocks O.C. Noise Ordinance - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Judge Temporarily Blocks O.C. Noise Ordinance

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

OCEAN CITY, Md.- Street performers can return to Ocean City's Boardwalk without fear of being cited for a noise violation.

A federal judge put the town's noise ordinance on hold.

U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander granted a preliminary injunction Wednesday in a case challenging the ordinance.

Judge Hollander said, "I do not question the legitimacy of (the town's) interest in restricting excessive noise on the Boardwalk." She added, "But, the means employed by Ocean City to achieve its goals reach far broader than necessary."

The American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] of Maryland is suing the town of Ocean City on behalf of violinist William Hassay Jr., alleging the ordinance violates his right to free speech.

But music to one person, may be noise to another.

Ocean City police told WBOC they were responding to a noise complaint made by a shop on the boardwalk, when officers told Hassay his music was too loud.

Hassay said Ocean City police threatened him with arrest last April, saying his performances violated the ordinance.

The legal battle boils down to how far Hassay's music travels. The resort town law states any sound or music generated on the boardwalk can not be heard 30-feet away.

ACLU hired a professional sound engineer to test the sounds of the boardwalk, and the engineer concluded "virtually anything" can be heard 30-feet away on the boardwalk. 

Mayor Rick Meehan testified that the ordinance was aimed at stores that play loud music to attract customers, not performers. 

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