Cape Gazette
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Friday Editorial

Lewes should repeal outdoor music law

May 02, 2014

Noise, not surprisingly, came up frequently as a topic of discussion at the recent Lewes Mayor and Council candidates’ forum. Anyone who has read the pages of the Cape Gazette over the past 20 years knows that noise concerns along the coast are as chronic as pollen in the spring.

Most of the concerns, also not surprisingly, come in the warmer months when people take every opportunity to be outside. While most people agree that it’s nice to be outside or have the windows open when it’s warm, opinions on what people want to hear in their environment differ widely. Some want peace and quiet, even closing their windows when spring peepers and crickets begin their seasonal choruses. Others like to sit on their porches, or the decks of restaurants, and listen to music blending with outdoor air.

So how to strike a balance? Moderation and consideration for others come to mind, but those concepts tend to be highly subjective. Some people come to the beach to party and blow off steam. Others come to relax and meditate.

No conclusions or consensus emerged at the candidates’ forum. Rob Morgan said an ordinance against outdoor amplified music either should be enforced or removed. Mike Mahaffie said that in trying to temper noise concerns, the town should take care not to lose the character embodied in the core value that says Lewes is a town of busy days and quiet nights. Incumbent Bonnie Osler agreed the issue is a thorny one, and she is finding the job of trying to write a revised ordinance a daunting task.

As Lewes wrestles with the issue, at least one action should be clear and acted on immediately. The prohibition on outdoor amplified music should be repealed. The city allows amplified music in park concerts, amplified music at festival events, amplified carols at the Christmas parade. Who wants to get rid of that? But it does create an undesirable double standard. Repeal the ordinance, allow the town to enjoy its busy days, and allow the police to handle the more chronic disturbing-the-peace complaints on a case-by-case basis.

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