The latest ruckus over noise levels in Siesta Key Village brings to mind that old Rodney King line from the Los Angeles riots: “Can’t we all just get along?”
This is our area’s version of the 35-year dispute between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky, though not nearly as bloody.
Tensions and emotions often run high, though, in Siesta Key’s on-again, off-again skirmishes between some of the residents of the Terrace East condominiums and the bar-restaurant owners in the Village. So here we are again, and some residents are now lobbying Sarasota County government officials to intervene again with more intervention. Now they’re talking about adding another county code-enforcement officer and perhaps amending noise ordinances to institute a noise-permitting system.
Please, no more government.
To add these layers of government policing and intervention would take a page out of the late Milton Friedman’s Law of Laws. We all know how it goes: Aggrieved citizens lobby their representatives to right a perceived wrong or to gain special favor. Once the law or favor is codified, it generates unintended consequences that, in time, result in modifications, more interventions and additions to the first law. Then those new modifications create more unintended consequences, which bring even more modifications and interventions. And so on and so on. No wonder the national regulatory burden as gargantuan as it is.
To be sure, the residents who live near Siesta Key Village, and in particular those who live near its bars and restaurants, have a right to live in peace and unharmed. Likewise, the owners of the bars and restaurants have a right to pursue their own happiness on their properties — so long as they don’t harm their neighbors.
But what, then, constitutes harm or damage? At what point — and at what time of night — is the sound of live music damaging? It’s like judging ugliness — we all know it when we see it, but it’s different for everyone.
So in modern America, the way we deal with such neighborhood issues and vagaries is for small groups, sometimes mobs, to complain to and pressure elected officials to adopt laws to prevent the unwanted behavior. Heaven forbid, two neighbors get together face to face, talk like adults and reach a happy medium.
There really are no solutions to this issue. There are only choices.
The residents who don’t like the noise can: stay, be miserable and keep griping; they can move; buy out the bars and shut them down; install sound-proof windows and other noise-abatement materials in their homes and condos; or even work with the bars in search of a happy medium.
The bar owners have choices, too. They can: comply with the existing noise ordinances; perhaps install more noise-abatement materials; discontinue live music or discontinue it during early-morning hours; they can violate the noise ordinances, pay fines, bring on more government regulation and generate ill-will with their neighbors; or they can reach out and work with their neighbors. They might even study whether the late-night live music is producing a favorable return on investment.
The best choices should be obvious.
In the end, restaurants and bars are good for the community. They add to Siesta Key’s quality of life for residents and visitors. And it is in their selfish interests to do what is right and reasonable.
Likewise, Village residents probably recognize: If you choose to live near the Village, the bar scene will be a part of your life. More government enforcement and regulation isn’t the right answer.