It all comes down to what city attorney Mark Barnebey’s question to his commission, “What do you envision your downtown to be?”
Apparently, Palmetto wants its downtown to be quiet.
City commissioners came to an unstable consensus on Monday to reduce decibel levels to 75, which would drop to 65 on Sundays through Thursdays at 10 p.m. and at midnight on weekends. It had been proposed to have decibel levels at 85 until 2:30 a.m. in future entertainment districts, but at least one commissioner wants to kill any notion of the city establishing entertainment districts for now.
“We can look at these areas and tweak them later on down the road,” said Commissioner Tambra Varnadore, who noted she will continue to argue against them altogether. Varnadore said the city’s layout would not accommodate a reasonable entertainment district and would ultimately affect too many residents.
“I find that highly problematic,” she said.
The city launched into this long process when the 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office announced last year that his office would not pursue criminal cases involving noise disputes without decibel readings. That decision led Manatee County to revise its ordinance, and the city of Bradenton is moving closer to resolving its own with a vote scheduled for March 22.
The two cities have been trying to take advantage of having to redo their ordinances by planning ahead for a more vibrant nightlife, but it hasn’t been easy on either side of the Manatee River.
Palmetto’s ordinance has gone through months of work shops, but is no closer to moving forward to public hearings. Monday’s consensus to ignore entertainment districts for now, reduce decibel levels and to enact reduced time restrictions is likely to get more argument at the city’s April work shop.
You will kill entertainment in Palmetto even before it gets started and it’s an easy drive to Bradenton.
Palmetto Commissioner Harold Smith
Varnadore and Vice Mayor Brian Williams want future entertainment businesses to apply for conditional use permits so the commission can take them on a case-by-case basis depending on their location. Commissioner Harold Smith encourages more debate, but that ultimately, “You will kill entertainment in Palmetto even before it gets started, and it’s an easy drive to Bradenton. We have to have an area for entertainment.”
Barnebey said ultimately, it’s the city’s decision, “But I think you are making a mistake and will live to regret it. These are some huge changes you are making. Without having some areas with higher decibel levels, you will not have businesses moving into those areas.”