Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson has represented the district, which includes Siesta Key, for almost 15 years — she’s no novice when it comes to noise complaints stemming from the Siesta Village nightlife. But, after receiving about five complaints in the last two weeks, she says it’s time to revisit the classic complaint.
“They were well thought-out,” Patterson said about the messages. “They weren’t frivolous at all.”
The Sarasota County Commission began discussing solutions last month, when Patterson said she would consider adding code-enforcement officers for periodic decibel assessments. However, she told the Pelican Press Tuesday she’s still concerned about budgetary limitations that make increasing enforcement efforts through staff expansion improbable. In April, the commissioners said they planned to study the efficacy of noise ordinances from other towns.
Jon Thaxton, the Sarasota County commissioner representing District 5, brought noise ordinances from Indian Rocks Beach to the attention of commissioners as an example of a comparable community’s solution. These restrictions are more complicated than what Sarasota County has in place and require a 90-day provisional permitting process and one-year time limit for permits issued for commercial entertainment. Under Indian Rocks’ ordinances, provisional permits and annual renewals cost $100; reapplication, after a permit is revoked, costs an establishment $500.
Patterson said she understands merchants would want to improve enforcement of current laws rather than implement draconian restrictions. At the Tuesday, May 1 meeting of the Siesta Key Village Association, President Russell Matthes implored merchants who are active at night to follow the mandated ordinance levels and timeframes.
Sgt. Scott Osborne, representing the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, told members of SKVA that the busy tourist season has contributed to problems. He also said that there has been some personnel turnover at the Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re working with some of the new guys on enforcement,” he said.
Kevin Cooper, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, echoed Osborne’s message in a recent interview with the Pelican Press. The data he gathers to measure tourism shows that bed taxes collected in February are almost double what they were for the same period in 2011 — and because this data lags nearly a fiscal quarter, numbers could continue to swell.
“It’s also cyclical,” he said. “These issues come up every three or four years.” Matthes concurred, saying new tenants, who may not know the zoning ordinances well, can trigger complaints — putting the whole Village in jeopardy.
Regardless of the cause, Cooper agrees that new codes are unnecessary.
“When I try to find a solution to a problem, I make sure to solve the actual problem,” he said. “The rules aren’t the problem. The enforcement is the problem.”