Bowing to a barrage of noise complaints from neighborhoods adjacent to Bob’s Boathouse restaurant, the Sarasota County Commission Wednesday approved amending the county’s noise ordinance to be more restrictive.
The commission’s decision followed a series of impassioned pleas from residents of neighborhoods adjacent to Bob’s Boathouse — 21 residents in all offered public testimony in support of changing the law to make it more restrictive.
All affected residents at Wednesday's public hearing wore blue as a sign of "unity and cohesiveness" in their push to change the county's sound laws.
Residents were primarily concerned by diminished property values and negative effects on their quality of life. Many who spoke Wednesday 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 sound ordinance change lowers the sound limit by five decibels across all zoning categories. Bob’s Boathouse, which is zoned for commercial use, will now be subject to an 80-decibel limit (based on the C-Weighting scale), lowered from the previous limit of 85 decibels. The times that live music can be played outdoors or indoors is also more restrictive. The new law lowers the sound limit by five decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 p.m., a one-hour shift earlier from the previous ordinance, which lowered the limit at 11 p.m.
The amendment underwent one significant change Wednesday from what County Code Enforcement staff had originally proposed.
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.”
The altered measure passed 3-1, County Commissioner Joe Barbetta was the one dissent. 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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