Palmetto’s proposed new noise ordinance hangs in a precarious situation as a divided commission now debates whether one is even needed.
Bradenton will hold the first of two public hearings at 8:30 a.m. on March 8 on its new ordinance. The council cleared two key hurdles in early February that pushed forward the city’s desire to be more business friendly to entertainment. Progress was made largely because of a test session council members underwent to determine what certain decibel levels sound like up close and at a distance.
Palmetto Commissioner Jonathan Davis wants his city’s commission to do the same experiment. Davis currently sits as the swing vote on a commission where two officials want to continue to move forward with a new ordinance and two want to drop it altogether.
Manatee County completed its new ordinance in September. Neither city wanted to follow the county’s ordinance to the letter because both desire to attract entertainment and nightlife businesses to their urban cores.
According to city attorney Mark Barnebey, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, which supports higher decibel levels and the creation of entertainment districts, favors Palmetto’s proposals, “as the best of the three ordinances,” Barnebey said.
Bradenton is proposing to raise decibel levels from 75 to 80 city wide with no time limits and to eliminate amplified music restrictions, which has been restricted to 65 after 10 p.m., including weekends. Palmetto is proposing to create multiple entertainment districts and raise decibel levels to 85 in those districts until 2:30 a.m.
But that may be all for not.
The ones being proposed are problematic and make more problems than what we currently have.
Palmetto Commissioner Tambra Varnadore
Commissioner Tambra Varnadore supports keeping the city’s noise ordinance as it is and doesn’t like the way the entertainment districts are laid out. She also noted that the proposed districts include the Manatee County Fairgrounds and the Bradenton Area Convention Center.
“Most of the complaints we do see are from the convention center vicinity,” Varnadore said. “And this would allow those events, as well as the fair and events at Sutton Park to go until 2:30 a.m. And I still have issues making the whole downtown an entertainment district. I think we should leave this alone until we know where we want entertainment zones. The ones being proposed are problematic and make more problems than what we currently have.”
Existing problems are few and far between, according to Police Chief Scott Tyler, who said the department gets very few noise disturbance calls.
“And when we do, it’s almost always settled at first contact,” he said.
Commissioner Harold Smith supports a more vibrant nightlife in Palmetto, but ultimately doesn’t believe the city needs any new laws. Commissioner Tamara Cornwell and Vice Mayor Brian Williams think the city is headed in the right direction. Davis said his decision would depend on doing the test session.
In October 2015, the city attempted to add amplified music restrictions into their ordinance. Like this process, months were invested into debates, but the attempt was eventually scrapped. Officials determined then that there are not enough problems in the city to warrant a new ordinance.