By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter
Bradenton Beach folks are making some noise.
Business owners are confused and residents have complained about a noise ordinance that was adopted March 20 by the Bradenton Beach City Commission.
During public comment at the commission’s April 3 meeting, several business owners voiced concern about where the decibel reading should be measured in the event of a complaint.
“As the law is written, someone can stand outside my bar with a decibel-reader application on their cellphone and, if it’s over the legal limit, they can call police,” Joe Cuervo, owner of Drift In, said during public comment. “Am I right? Because it seems to me like that’s the way this law is written. ”
Mayor Bill Shearon said he didn’t plan to discuss the ordinance because it was not on the agenda, but there have been a lot of complaints in reference to the new ordinance. He said where the decibel level can be read is “still to be determined.”
According to Steve Gilbert, city building official, two references in the ordinance have created confusion and could be subject to legal interpretation.
“The first reference is fairly clear, in that it points to taking the sound-level measurements ‘at the receiving land,’ which I would interpret to mean the property where the person making the complaint resides,” Gilbert wrote in an email.
However, Gilbert added, the second reference of “receiving land” now appears “ambiguous in nature due to revisions made to the ordinance during the public hearings.”
In the original ordinance, officials were planning to take measurements at the property line of the noise source, and also at the property line of the receiving land, so they could accurately frame the noise based on the distance, weather conditions and other factors.
“One could make the argument that the “receiving land” could be just across the street, or even on the sidewalk,” Gilbert said. “However, the intent was to refer to the residence or business of the person making the complaint.”
Amanda Escobio, who spoke on behalf of the Bridge Street Merchants, said there has been nothing but confusion since the ordinance was passed.
“Our position when we came here on March 20 was to take some more time passing the ordinance and it was the commission that insisted on voting that day,” she said. “I’m wondering why and how, if it’s law, there are still things ‘to be determined,’ as you said, mayor.”
Commissioners unanimously approved the new noise ordinance with a clause allowing the decibel levels to be measured from the property line of the complainant rather than at the source of the sound at their March 20 meeting, after hearing more than an hour of public comment on the topic inside chambers.
While commissioners were in favor of the sliding scale of allowed decibel levels, they said they would allow the sound to be read from the complainant’s property line rather than from the source.
The ordinance became law that day, as it was the final advertised public reading of the ordinance.
Under the new noise ordinance, outdoor music is allowed until 10 p.m., and live indoor music can take place until 1 a.m. Establishments can provide music at 85 decibels 7 a.m.-7 p.m., but that number shrinks to 75 decibels between the hours of 7-10 p.m., and then must be turned down to 65 decibels 10 p.m.-2 a.m. It decreases again to 55 decibels 2-7 a.m.
The original version of the ordinance would have lowered the allowable commercial decibel levels in order to address resident’s concerns related to live entertainment and amplified music offered at and around businesses in the Bridge Street area.
The city planning and zoning board held several meetings on the topic and recommended lowering the decibel levels in the commercial district, but after hearing more than 50 business owners who opposed the measure, commissioners entered a last-minute clause that some say ended up allowing increased the decibel levels of music rather than lowering the sound.
The city commission decided to consider the matter further at a future meeting.