A noise complaint against a church was heard at the regular monthly meeting of ANC 6E/Shaw on April 1. A neighbor told a long but undocumented story of repeated late-night noise. The church answered with a different version of events.
Shaw resident James Brush presented a case against the Church of the Living God (1206 4th Street NW, see photo). Brush lives in a building near the church. He said there is a 15-unit apartment building next to the church, and a 13-unit building backing the church, both of which can clearly hear music. Brush said he cannot watch TV or listen to the radio while the church has services because of the noise.
Brush said the church has amplified music five nights a week, from 7:30 to 11. One night recently, Brush said, the music went on until 11:30.
Brush told the commission he had complained repeatedly to the church about the noise without effect. He says he had called the police (most recently, on March 25) but "the police will not go to the door."
"Everything stops because of the church issue," Brush said. "It's what people directly state: 'We won't deal with the church'."
Brush said he went to the door of the church one evening when the music was playing loudly.
"I opened that door and was tackled by five of their men," Brush said.
The men tackled Brush, he claimed, and then threw him on the sidewalk.
When a group from the Church of the Living God, lead by Elder Kiki Young, had a chance to speak, they told a different story. She said the church had been operating in that location for several decades. Two years ago, there had been noise complaints. As a result, the church had installed extra insulation -- a fact which ANC6E Commissioner Rachelle Nigro (district 04) confirmed.
The church is in Nigro's ANC district.
As for Brush's entry into the church, Young said: "He came into the church to shut the church down."
Young said Brush had come into the church, tried to disrupt the service, and announced he would not leave until the music was turned down. When church members tried to take Brush away, he grabbed a door handle, and refused to let it go while church members tried to force him to leave. The door handle finally broke off in his hand, a member of the church said.
Commissioner Nigro said she had tried to get D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to investigate the case, but they wouldn't. As reported in the SALM blog post of March 11, noise ordinance enforcement involves a complicated patchwork of jurisdictions and DC agencies. In an attempt to bring some amount of order to this contentious issue, DC has established a task force of relevant agencies, as well as a single telephone number -- 202-329-6347 -- that people can call with after-hours noise complaints. The task force is nominally city-wide but seemed, at least initially, to be targeting nightclub noise in Dupont Circle.
Several members of the committee repeatedly asked Brush if he had attempted to substantiate his claims with evidence like, for example, readings from decibel meters. The first few times he was asked, Brush did not answer the question directly. Brush finally said he felt the law should be enforced without having to resort to "all sorts of fancy instrumentation".
There was no vote or resolution on the matter. After both sides had stated their cases, it was agreed Nigro would try to work with the police and the parties involved to reach a solution everyone could live with.
ANC6E videos their meetings in their entirety and posts them on its Youtube channel in 30- to 35-minute chunks. The discussion of the case of James Brush and the Church of the Living God can be viewed by following this link and starting at about 30:00. The discussion continues for about 30 minutes. It is spread over two separate Youtube videos -- Parts 3 and 4 of the complete record of the April 1 meeting.