While Manatee County code enforcement officers have no issues enforcing the present noise ordinance, they do not want to be enforcing an unconstitutional code, according to the county code enforcement chief.
“We do get noise complaints from time to time,” Jeff Bowman said.
As a way to address potential constitutional issues in the county noise ordinance, the Manatee County Commission will have a workshop to discuss a newly drafted noise ordinance at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Manatee Room on the fourth floor of the county administration building.
“We are attempting to address all the constitutional issues,” County Attorney Mickey Palmer said. “We can’t focus on who it is making the noise. You have to focus on the nature of the noise itself, the volume, the location, the repetitive nature. You can’t make exemptions to the noise ordinance based on who it is that is making the noise. We are simply trying to bring it into compliance with the current state of the case law.”
In the draft update of the county noise ordinance, maximum permissible sound levels are unchanged, according to Bowman.
“The decibel readings didn’t change,” he said. “They stayed the same.”
The proposed noise ordinance update, which would have to go before the commission in a public hearing for approval, provides me additional enforcement for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
“It also gives the sheriff office a little more enforcement power in this as well,” Bowman said.
Recent court decisions caused the county to “take a fresh new look at our noise ordinance,” Palmer said.
“We are not suggesting any kind of policy changes at all,” he said.
Commissioner Charles Smith said he would not support the draft as it is written, calling it a strict noise ordinance.
“It is not a noise ordinance,” he said. “It is an anti-business ordinance.”
The cities of Palmetto and Bradenton were given the option early on to piggyback on the county ordinance while it was still in early draft form. The benefits of doing so were to create uniformity across the county, as well saving money they would have to spend on their own measures.
Palmetto opted not to join the county ordinance in June based on several concerns with the early language. Officials believed definitions within codes were too different between the city and county. They also said it would hurt efforts to develop downtown as destination.
Officials also balked at the harsh penalties cited in the ordinance, including possible jail time for a first offense. Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said it is still unlikely the city would join county efforts.
“We intend to review some noise ordinances from other areas and also make sure we have a true picture of how specific sounds are reflected on a decibel meter,” said Bryant, who noted the city commission would likely resume its efforts at a workshop next month.
In April, the city of Bradenton didn’t hesitate to piggyback on the county ordinance, but retained the option to opt out should the final result not fit city needs. The decision caused a backlash in the community, particularly from the entertainment district along Ninth Street West.
Motorworks Brewing launched a survey and the overwhelming majority of respondents called for later hours, specifically on weekends. Bradenton’s current ordinance calls for a 10 p.m. shutdown of outside noise seven days a week.
The Manatee Chamber of Commerce followed suit with a member survey and results were similar. The chamber sent a letter to the city asking it to revise its own ordinance.
Bradenton City Council backtracked on its decision in May, indicating it would take a closer look. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said the city is on standby until the county produces a finalized noise ordinance.
“We don’t know what we’ll do yet,” said Poston. “It depends on what the county produces. For our part, we don’t want to be active in this, we want to be reactive and we’ll see if what they come up with will fit our needs or not. If not, we’ll see what we can do on our own, but I have a feeling this won’t be the county’s only workshop. I think they’ll move slowly with it to get it right.”