A debate over the creation of new districts where noise levels would be allowed to increase fell to the wayside Wednesday when city officials came to a consensus to increase decibel levels citywide as part of a proposed new noise ordinance now scheduled for public hearings in March.
Districts, such as an official entertainment area, may still be considered in the future but for now, officials want a new noise ordinance in place.
The Bradenton City Council two weeks ago took a big step forward in moving the new ordinance forward after a test session was conducted that showed what various decibel levels sound like up close and personal. Officials walked away with a consensus that 75 decibels is not unreasonable. On Wednesday, the council agreed to bump up decibel levels to 80.
Vice Mayor Patrick Roff was the lone dissenter, saying the draft ordinance presented Wednesday with 75 decibels was acceptable, although he felt was still too loud. The city’s ordinance has always been at 75 decibels, but it restricted amplified music to 65 decibels after 10 p.m., seven days a week.
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“That was done back when if you wanted to have fun you had to go to Sarasota,” said Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith. “You only came here for government.”
Officials determined there is no difference between the same decibels of generic noise and the same decibels of music. The amplified music section of the existing ordinance was struck from the proposed ordinance. That move, along with the increase to 80, will essentially allow businesses catering to nightlife and entertainment an increase of 15 decibels with no time restrictions.
The city also switched its enforcement measures from reading a decibel meter from the property of the business to the property of the complainant. Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley said on average, decibel levels drop by six for every 50 feet. Hartley said entertainment businesses would be able to go higher than 80 on their property if sound levels are measured from the complainant’s property.
The Manatee Chamber of Commerce has supported and encouraged the city to adopt a new ordinance with higher decibel levels. In a letter to Mayor Wayne Poston, the chamber and Manatee Young Professionals representatives wrote, “We are encouraged by the council’s actions and bold leadership in spearheading progressive policies that continue to enhance our city and create lively live-work-play environments in our downtown and urban core.”
Officials still face two public hearings on March 8 and March 22. The council acknowledges no matter what they do, there will be those who are happy and those who are not.
“No matter what number you pick, people on one side will be unhappy,” said Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo. “Whether you are trying to make happy or appease people who live in residential or businesses investing money into the community, you will never reach a goal of satisfying everyone.”