Because they say noise, rude behavior and vandalism is worse than it’s ever been in Siesta Key Village, a group of residents who live just off Ocean Boulevard are creating a unified voice to fight the problems.
The Mira Mar district is starting a neighborhood association with the hope that the County Commission will take complaints from a group of residents and business owners more seriously than if they were coming from a series of individuals.
“There is no other choice,” said Prudie Varro, manager of the Sunsets on the Key vacation homes, who is one of the creators of the Mira Mar Association. “We’ve had regular guests stop coming because the problems are so bad.”
Varro recounts stories of loud bar patrons throwing beer bottles, vomiting and urinating in yards, and she said they jump in her pool, sometimes with clothes on, sometimes without.
“We’ve had to hire a private security guard on Friday and Saturday nights,” Varro said. “But that takes 34% of our profit.”
A new maneuver to curb the noise coming from bars, the group references Gilligan’s, The Hub and Siesta Key Oyster Bar, could also help.
The county and the sheriff’s office are looking at the possibility of decriminalizing noise violations.
Currently, they are a criminal offense, which means only the sheriff’s office can enforce them.
But if a noise violation becomes a civil infraction, both the sheriff’s office and county code enforcement can crack down on offenders.
Varro has met with Sheriff Tom Knight, and he told her that the way the law is now, deputies would actually have to arrest a noise violator, which takes time and money and keeps deputies from investigating more serious crimes.
Varro stresses that she’s not trying to shut down the bars in the Village.
“I don’t want to sound like an old woman who doesn’t want any noise,” she said. “I understand there are people who enjoy the bars. I’m looking for a happy medium.”
The sheriff’s office has run into a couple of obstacles in trying to enforce the county’s noise ordinance.
For businesses, the code limits noise to 75 decibels from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 70 decibels from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
In general, 80 decibels is the noise level coming from an electric shaver or alarm clock.
The problem for deputies in Siesta Key Village is that many of the bars have been given exceptions to the code, which allow them to have a higher noise level later at night. Because there is no set standard for an exception, so many of the bars were given different levels and times of operation.
Deputies have also had trouble with the measuring devices used to detect noise levels.
They’re called Quest Sound Level Meters, and, to use it, a deputy stands at the property line of the business in question and holds up the meter.
The meters have been problematic, because, many times, the deputies can’t tell if the noise is coming from that particular business or is ambient noise.
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