Friday, August 07, 2009

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

By Marc Korman.

Seeing this article in a recent Gazette describing neighbors complaining about noise from a local pool left me scratching my head and asking the question, can’t we all just get along?

As the article explains, at least two community pools in residential neighborhoods have had problems with long standing “lock-in” parties for their swim teams. These are annual, chaperoned events for pool swim teams where the kids stay at the pool overnight. The residential pools operate under a special exception that allows them to operate during the daytime, but not overnight when these parties occur.

A July 2-3 sleepover party at the Garrett Park Swimming Pool led to neighborhood complaints about noise and a request that no further activities be scheduled when people are sleeping. To ensure they were on safe legal ground, the Tilden Woods Recreation Association requested a one-time waiver to their operating hours requirement, basically a special exception to their special exception, to allow their lock-in party later in July. The Board of Appeals rejected the request, which meant that the Tilden Woods swim team had to curtail their annual event, which had existed since 1988.

I first heard about the issue at Councilman Roger Berliner’s town hall earlier in the summer, where swim team parents were asking for assistance to ensure the event could be held. Unfortunately, due to ex parte rules Councilman Berliner could not really act on a matter pending before the Board of Appeals.

There may not be a government answer to pool lock-ins. But perhaps County Executive Leggett, Councilman Berliner, or other community leaders can hold their own “beer summit” (juice for the kids of course) to bring the swim teams and the community together to figure out how they can work this out.

Neighborhood noise complaints are understandable. If your neighbors have noisy all night parties regularly, they are being inconsiderate and you should complain. But if your neighbors hold such parties rarely and tell you about it in advance, I think most people would accept one night of noise in the interest of neighborhood harmony.

On the other hand, if it turns out that late and overnight activities are happening more often than the once a year lock-ins, then the pool neighbors could be justified in seeking an end to such activities. But whether a solution comes about from community engagement or a legislative waiver to the pool’s special exception, can’t we all just get along?