PALMETTO -- What's the difference between loud and too loud?
That's what Palmetto city officials are trying to decide as the latest Manatee County municipality to try to craft a noise ordinance.
Just as in other local cities, especially on Anna Maria Island where debates raged the the past year on how to enforce a legal noise ordinance, Palmetto began with the county ordinance as a base model.
According to city attorney Mark Barnebey, the county model calls for a documented enforcement measure using decimeters and a law enforcement officer's discretionary use of "reasonable standards."
While Barnebey said reasonable standards have held up in the courts, Police Chief Rick Wells said there are instances where it works and instances where it does not.
"Parties in residential areas are different," said Wells. "It doesn't take much if you drive down the road and hear a loud party. You ask them to turn it down and that's a warning. If we have to come back, we tell them the party is over. The problem I see is that it's difficult for officers to agree. One may say it's too loud and another might say it's OK."
Wells said residential parties have not been an issue in Palmetto and, according to city officials Monday, discussion of tweaking the city's ordinance stems from a recurring problem in the vicinity of the Rivera Dunes Condominiums and Marina.
Barnebey suggested there could be an issue if the city doesn't get a handle on noise enforcement, as Palmetto continues to grow and attract new businesses that may pursue outdoor dining and entertainment areas.
Following a lengthy discussion on potential costs and whether police or code en
forcement officers would be certified for taking decibel readings, At Large Commissioner Tamara Cornwell said Palmetto residents and businesses have always cooperated with the city. She doesn't see the need to absorb unnecessary costs, but said if the science is solid behind the technology, she would support it.
Wells said he would research associated costs for equipment, training and annual maintenance.
Other issues remain: fines, satisfactory decibel levels, how many certified officers are needed and whether the city wants to create a development district for entertainment establishments or if a conditional use permit would be required.
"So we just need a set of standards everyone can agree on," said Wells.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.