Hillsborough County, not Manatee County is where the city of Palmetto will likely look to craft a new noise ordinance, after the city rejected Manatee’s offer to piggy-back on its proposed ordinance.
The Hillsborough County ordinance is more conducive to setting different standards for its commercial and entertainment districts, Palmetto city attorney Mark Barnebey said. For example, Ybor City is largely an entertainment district and decibel standards are fairly liberal, with some areas being allowed up to 190 decibels. Outdoor entertainment time cutoffs are at 3 a.m. on the weekends.
Barnebey said that’s too high for Palmetto, but still an example of how the county separates its noise standards to address an entertainment district’s needs.
It may be a bit premature with noise levels until we first look at those zoning districts ... It’s like putting the cart before the horse.
Palmetto City Commissioner Tambra Varnadore
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“The Manatee County ordinance is still a good start from the criminal enforcement standards, but I would like to try and incorporate some of the Hillsborough County things that separate noise standards for time, duration and level for certain areas,” Barnebey said.
The Manatee ordinance’s requirement to use a decibel meter would still have to be incorporated, because the local state attorney’s office has made it clear that the courts would no longer prosecute noise ordinance violations without a reading.
“We’ll still have a reasonable ‘person standard’,” Barnebey said. “But we will have to have decibel standards, too, because the state attorney won’t prosecute without them.”
Vice Mayor Harold Smith isn’t convinced the city needs to do anything that would be more restrictive.
“To build the city, do you want new businesses or an ordinance to stop them from coming in? There is nothing wrong with the ordinance we have now. I don’t think we have a problem,” he said.
Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler said there is no getting around the need to add decibel requirements.
“Right now, we don’t have an option to make a criminal case, though we’ve never had to do that,” said Tyler. “Unless we go to a decibel standard, the judges and the courts won’t prosecute ... It’s almost forcing our hand. We need to adopt that part of it, but will still have a reasonable ‘man standard’ because most people cooperate with a first warning.”
Commissioner Tambra Varnadore agrees that the city needs a new ordinance, but said it should first set some priorities.
“I agree with everything that’s been said, but I don’t see how we can do decibel levels without first addressing what our districts are,” she said. “It may be a bit premature with noise levels until we first look at those zoning districts. How do we separate standards when we don’t know what those areas are? It’s like putting the cart before the horse.”
City officials will revisit the noise ordinance by the end of the summer and first address the possible creation of various districts. While no decisions have been made, Barnebey said he will likely recommend a 1 a.m. outdoor noise cutoff time for business and entertainment areas with decibel standards of at least 90.
There is also some dissent from the county dais in wanting to rework the county ordinance language. Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore told the Bradenton Herald the county’s ordinance was stopped from going to a public hearing in favor of an Aug. 16 work shop.
“It’s not just the city governments who are unhappy with the proposed ordinance,” Whitmore said.
Bradenton voted to piggy-back on the county’s ordinance, but is backtracking from that decision. Mayor Wayne Poston said that while a vote did take place, it was made clear that the city reserved the right to opt out if the ordinance didn’t ultimately fit the city’s needs.