Bowing to a chorus of noise complaints from neighborhoods adjacent to Bob’s Boathouse restaurant, the Sarasota County Commission Wednesday approved amending the county’s noise ordinance to make it more restrictive.
The commission’s decision followed a procession of impassioned pleas from residents of neighborhoods adjacent to Bob’s Boathouse — 21 residents in all offered public testimony in support of tightening the county noise laws.
All affected residents at Wednesday’s public hearing wore blue as a sign of “unity and cohesiveness” in their effort.
Residents were primarily concerned by diminished property values and negative effects on their quality of life. Many who spoke also claimed adverse psychological and health effects from Bob’s Boathouse noise, including insomnia, dizziness, depression and headaches.
“This is unprecedented,” Commissioner Charles Hines said, referring to the volume of residents wishing to offer public testimony in support of the amendment.
The commission decided to change the noise ordinance in two ways. One addresses noise levels measured from the noise-generating property, while the other addresses the level of noise at receiving properties.
For sound levels measured at the generating property, the county lowered the limit by five decibels across all zoning categories. In addition, the new law lowers that decibel limit by an additional five decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., a one-hour earlier shift from the previous ordinance, which lowered the limit at 11 p.m.
After discussion Wednesday, the commission also included a limit on noise as measured by receiving properties.
Under the original ordinance change, the noise limits at the generating site and the receiving site were the same. River Forest Civic Association President Jim McWhorter pushed to further lower the sound limit at receiving properties to 60 decibels, which is in line with the standards of most Florida counties that measure at the receiving property, he said.
“The main reason we're recommending the 60-decibel limit is that is what it takes to limit the penetration of the walls,” McWhorter said “That’s what all the other counties use.”
County staff verified McWhorter’s claim.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to amend the ordinance; County Commissioner Joe Barbetta cast the one dissenting vote. Commissioner Carolyn Mason was not present.
Barbetta expressed sympathy for the neighborhoods affected by noise from Bob’s Boathouse, but had concerns about the enforcement of the new ordinance and the lack of input from area restaurant and bar owners in drafting the new sound rules.
“I think there are going to be huge unintended consequences of what we’re doing,” Barbetta said. “I don’t think this is a solution — I can’t support it.”
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