PALMETTO -- The debate raged for months within the City Hall chambers of Palmetto on how to revise the city noise ordinance, but in the end, the only change made was to target violators by implementing fines.
Commissioners debated decibel levels, whether police or code enforcement should handle potential violations, what kind of equipment to use and how much of it at what expense and whether it was even needed considering the city is still debating an outdoor eating and drinking ordinance also designed to address noise issues.
The final conclusion was to leave the ordinance alone while adding a tier of citations. The first violation would get a warning and subsequent violations up to four or more within a year costing up to $500 and a mandatory court appearance. A second violation would be a civil citation for $250 and a third would be a civil citation for $500.
Commissioners unanimously passed the noise ordinance fine amendment at its regular meeting Monday while the outdoor eating and drinking ordinance, an ordinance thought to go hand-in-hand with the noise ordinance, remained in workshop discussion. This ordinance, too, has gone through rigorous scrutiny by commissioners. The biggest question about where the proposed ordinance would be applied may have been answered Monday: It would apply to every business with an outdoor area.
Commissioners have debated whether the ordinance would be restricted to any one area of the city or whether, if passed, would apply to all businesses with an outdoor eating and/or drinking area or if all existing businesses would be grandfathered.
The debate centered on whether there was a difference between a bar having an outdoor patio area for music or whether a McDonald's playground would also be considered an outdoor area and subject to apply for a conditional use permit.
Other rules include restricting amplified music between 10 p.m.-6 a.m.
The ordinance, if passed, would require any business with an outside area to apply to the city for a conditional use permit.
Ward 2 Commissioner Tambra Varnadore said such a process may open the commission to litigation if it is deemed one commissioner is attempting to restrict one establishment over another. She said she realized there would be some differences in application, but directed staff to develop common guidelines to be placed on the application.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter at @urbanmark2014.