In a series of dramatic changes from initial discussions to move Bradenton toward a more business-friendly environment, the city council on Wednesday ended a heated exchange with something a divided council believes businesses and residents can live with together.
The compromise leaves the city’s new noise ordinance with 75 decibels in non-residential districts from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays. After those designated hours, sound levels must drop to 65. Residential district decibel levels are now 75 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at which time noise levels must drop to 65 decibels.
Amplified music restrictions were eliminated from the ordinance, but the new ordinance made the move irrelevant. The previous ordinance allowed for 75 decibels until 10 p.m. for amplified music but had to drop to 65 after 10 p.m. Essentially, entertainment businesses have been given two extra hours on weekends.
It wasn’t an easy path to reach an agreement. In the end, it took one failed vote, a successful vote to re-vote and ultimately a 4-1 passage with Councilman Bemis Smith dissenting.
While it’s a city ordinance, the primary target of opposition came from the Village of the Arts against Motorworks Brewing. Fifteen of the 18 people speaking against the city’s earlier suggestions of even higher decibels were either from the village or in support of the village. That didn’t sit well with Smith.
This is not the ‘Motorworks be quiet’ act.
Councilman Bemis Smith
“This is not the ‘Motorworks be quiet’ act,” Smith said. “This is an ordinance to promote vibrancy throughout the city. We aren’t trying to do an ordinance based on one ward.”
Smith argued that the village shouldn’t dictate a citywide ordinance, but his argument fell short of the majority. Some council members even made an attempt to go lower than 75, which Smith said, “is worse than what we have now. If we do that, it shuts everyone down. We represent 52,000 people, and if we put forward an ordinance that isn’t moving us forward, then we aren’t serving the entire community, we are serving 200 people. I don’t like that.”
As discussions continued on how to compromise with the village, Smith, at one point, pounded the dais: “This isn’t about the Village of the Arts! You all come along here and blow whistles and get to the night where you have to pass it and then say, ‘Hey, I really didn’t want to do this in the first place.’”
Councilman Gene Brown countered: “We are trying to find a way to promote business, but protect residents. It is a citywide ordinance, but the situation with Motorworks and the village is the perfect test case of a business backed up to residential.”
Except the village isn’t residential. It’s a mixed-use community that has the only allowable live-work community where restaurants mingle with art galleries.
Smith said his frustration with the Village of the Arts representatives is they want to enjoy their commercial status when it benefits them, but “they want to be able to restrict just what they want. The whole village is driving the community. This may not be the most electable thing, but I didn’t come up here to get re-elected. I may get thrown out of here or I may retire, but I always try to do what’s right for the city and move it forward.”
Smith’s frustrations didn’t fall on deaf ears. A motion to adopt an ordinance that had 70 decibels across the board failed to pass prior to the final attempt, but Smith said what was adopted isn’t what the council moved forward in workshops to promote a vibrant nightlife in Bradenton.
Motorworks co-founder Frank Tschida left the meeting in frustration and would only say, “I’m done.”