In February, the City Commission was scheduled to discuss a revision of the city’s noise ordinance, but the agenda item was tabled to address complaints from residents. On Monday, a revised ordinance is once again on the agenda for the City Commission to consider.
The revised ordinance comes after a September commission meeting, during which the Sarasota Police Department complained of vague regulations and citizens complained that the rules weren’t stringent enough. According to a May 27 memo written by City Attorney Robert Fournier, the revised referendum has three main objectives:
+ Making the ordinance easier to understand and enforce
+ Making greater use of a “plainly audible” standard for noise violations, in addition to decibel limits
+ Exploring the possibility of increasing penalties for repeat offenders
The revised ordinance originally generated complaints from some residents that believed the new regulations were too lenient. The new ordinance would establish restrictions on amplified noise between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 11:59 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekends. Those cutoffs are an hour later than the current standards for all restaurants except for Mattison’s City Grille, which was granted an exemption supported by downtown residents in 2010.
In the memo, Fournier writes that while the letter of the law would be changing, enforcement would not be. Enforcing a different standard for a city-leased establishment would have violated other restaurants' constitutional guarantee to equal protection under the law, so the Sarasota Police Department has applied the 11 p.m. weekday and midnight weekend standards to all establishments.
“This is what has been enforced since March of 2013 and it is the same standard incorporated into the proposed ordinance,” Fournier wrote.
One change made to reflect complaints from February deals with sound measurements. In the February draft, decibel measurements for potential violations were to be made from the property of the complainant. In the new ordinance, decibel measurements would be made at or beyond the property line of the property where the noise is generated.
The full text of the revised ordinance and Fournier’s memo — and the rest of the agenda for Monday’s meeting — can be found on the city’s website.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].