Sarasota County code enforcement officers compete with wind, crowds and car stereos to measure sound with decibel readers in Siesta Key Village.
And, as part-time residents return to the island and the holiday season commences, noise complaints will likely become more common, said Sarasota County code-enforcement officer John Lally.
“If you’re trying to take a reading and a car comes by playing Megadeth, you have to turn the reader off,” said code-enforcement officer Kevin Burns, who works overtime to investigate after-hours code violations.
Hurricane Sandy delivered conditions to the Village that made measuring sound waves difficult, but prompted some residents to open their windows to feel the changing seasons.
“There are a lot of atmospheric conditions that cause music to travel farther than it normally would,” Lally said. A Gulf breeze may fill a condominium unit with cool, fresh air, but the same breeze can carry with it sounds from neighbors.
“Recently, the issue was simply wind,” Burns said.
A sound-level reading can be inaccurate if there is heavy wind competing with a machine’s input, Burns said.
A resident emailed Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson to complain about Village noise Oct. 31 — Halloween — and cited the Beach Club as the source, which is a rarity, Lally said. The resident said in the email he encountered “large, noisy crowds obstructing traffic” and exceptionally loud music.
“Ambient noise is exempt from the code — it’s not a violation,” Lally said. And sound-level meters are calibrated to vet out sound not coming from the source code-enforcement officers are measuring.
If the meter reads less than the regulated amount of decibels from a restaurant or bar’s property line, there is nothing else an officer can do. But, Burns said he has met with leaders of the various island organizations to develop a better model for enforcement in the Village.
“Instead of trying to take care of all the issues at once, we’re breaking them up into individual problems,” Burns said.
Code-enforcement staff will sit down with the complainant and suspected violator to resolve a legitimate dispute, Burns said.
“Unless I believe there’s a violation, I try prevent the people from being disturbed,” Burns said.