Plan on being in Palmetto in the near future? Shh.
Noise ordinances don’t get settled easily in any municipality, but Palmetto has struggled to resolve an announcement from the 12th District State Attorney’s Office late last year that prosecutors would not pursue noise violations without documented decibel levels.
That announcement sent Manatee County and the cities scrambling to update their ordinances. Palmetto’s attempts have stalled amongst a divided commission. That changed somewhat on Monday as commissioners agreed to at least move forward an enforceable ordinance. Renewing key issues that divided the commission, such as entertainment districts with allowable higher noise levels, can come later.
Bradenton, too, went through several debates before settling in March on a citywide level of 75 decibels until 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends, with levels dropping to 65 during all other times. Bradenton’s ordinance also stalled during the argument for entertainment districts, but the council immediately went to work creating its first entertainment district in June.
Palmetto, in the meantime, is recommending decibel levels that will keep things quiet citywide, including the urban core. The city looks to mirror Manatee County’s ordinance that applies mostly to the rural unincorporated areas. Palmetto agreed to a decibel level of 60 between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight every day and 55 for all other times.
An average conversation creates about 60 decibels.
Commissioner Jonathan Davis questioned the reasoning because the recommendation would require less noise during the day than at night, but ultimately a consensus was given to move the ordinance forward to an eventual vote.
“We’ve had this on the agenda a number of times and are having challenges moving this forward,” said city attorney Mark Barnebey. “It kind of boils down to the biggest issues the commission has and how to deal with that, so the first question that needs an answer is, do we want an ordinance that can be enforced in court?”
The Palmetto Police Department responds to very few noise complaints, averaging around 16 a year, and has used the reasonable person standards without issues. However, Chief Scott Tyler said without some kind of decibel level standards, his officers’ hands are tied under the current ordinance.
“If we are sending officers on calls, we have to allow officers to take enforcement actions,” he said.
Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said there has been enough discussion and it was time for her commission to take action.
“We’ve talked and talked about this ordinance so I’ve asked our attorney and chief to list some basic questions, and I don’t want this to come back for a vote and further discussion without some yes or no answers,” Bryant said. “Let’s take some decisive action. This commission needs to take that action or the public is not going to be well served.”
Tyler said his officers would continue to use the reasonable person standard, but having something on the books for now would allow his officers to enforce situations should someone refuse to comply with reasonable requests to quiet things down.