Councilwoman looks to clarify process for holding events at historic places

·3 min read

Jul. 6—A Frederick County Councilwoman has proposed a bill that she said will clarify the process for applying to hold events at the county's historic properties.

The bill would also grant the county more authority to regulate the events.

Under the county's code, individuals or groups can use historic facilities or areas to host events such as seminars, cultural or social events, and similar activities.

The bill, from Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, D, would add to the county's code a specific process and criteria for applying to hold a function at a historic property. To be eligible, the property must be approved under the county's Register of Historic Places.

Fitzwater said Tuesday that the intent of her bill was to clarify for people that they can hold functions at the county's historic properties, and to outline criteria for doing so.

She said she drafted the bill in response to concerns that gatherings at historic properties had created traffic on local roads and noise that annoyed people in neighboring homes.

Her bill requires that events at historic places begin no earlier than 10 a.m. and end no later than 10 p.m. The hours may be reduced if necessary to limit noise, light or other disturbances to nearby properties.

Event organizers must keep music to 40 decibels, which is quieter than a household refrigerator, according to a decibel chart from Yale University. The county may prohibit outdoor music, and limit or prohibit indoor music, if it would be too loud for nearby properties.

Individuals or organizations applying to host a function at a historic site will be required to submit a traffic management plan to demonstrate how vehicles will enter and exit the site during peak hours with limited interruption to traffic flow on public streets.

Council members on Tuesday voted 4-3 to adopt an amendment from Councilman Jerry Donald requiring that events in places such as Braddock Heights, Buckeystown or Jefferson be held indoors.

Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer, D; Vice President Michael Blue, R; and Councilman Kai Hagen, D, joined Donald in favor.

Councilmen Phil Dacey and Steve McKay, both Republicans, voted with Fitzwater against the amendment.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing during its July 12 meeting for people to comment on the amendment.

Council members voted down a separate amendment from Donald that would have prohibited functions at historic properties in residential areas.

"It prevents neighbors from enjoying the peaceful enjoyment of their property," Donald said during the council's meeting.

Council members voted 4-3 against Donald's amendment. The council's three Republican members — Blue, McKay and Dacey — joined Fitzwater in voting down the amendment. Keegan-Ayer and Hagen joined Donald to vote in favor.

"This use is already allowable in every single zoning district," Fitzwater said. "[The amendment is] taking away a use that property owners currently have, and that was never the intent of this bill."

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan