- September 2, 2021
At its Monday regular workshop, commissioners expressed frustration with a growing number of boaters anchoring off sandbars on both the north and south ends of the Key.
“The number of boats have increased considerably from even a year ago,” said Commissioner Pat Zunz. “I can hear the music as soon as I open my door and step outside. It’s a condition that’s escalating.”
Sleepy Lagoon resident Ann Roth and many other north end residents complained to commissioners about the noise in April, urging for action.
“There’s rap, loud rock and loud country music and now loud horns all blaring together,” Roth told the Longboat Key Town Commission at its March 23 regular workshop. “There’s no way we can be on our porches or even open our windows when this music is blaring.”
The music is coming specifically from boats that anchor around the popular Jewfish Key sidebar in Sarasota Bay near Longboat Pass on the weekends and even on weekdays.
Zunz and others noted the problem doesn’t just occur on holidays weekends or in season anymore.
Deputy Police Chief Frank Rubino spent the last two months reviewing the town’s current noise ordinance after Police Chief Pete Cumming expressed concern the ordinance might not be enforceable.
Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale told the commission Monday the current ordinance is enforceable and recommended they continue using it.
The ordinance currently allows marine patrol officers to give boaters a warning first for blaring loud music. If the offender blares music within a year of receiving a noise violation warning, he or she receive a notice to appear in court and could face up to a $500 fine or 60-day jail term.
Commissioners expressed concern there's no way to defend the ordinance and expressed a need for standards that include noise decibel meters.
“Because something hasn’t been challenged doesn’t mean it’s defensible,” Younger said. “In my opinion, you get into a problem with something like this and can run a chance for abuse where somebody doesn’t like what’s going on.”
Mooney-Portale, though, said violators can challenge decibel-level codes as well.
Commissioner Jack Daly suggested the real problem is a need for more resources and officers to patrol the bay.
Mayor Jack Duncan, who went out on a weekend boat patrol recently, said the town needs a bigger presence, but it costs too much money.
“It’s like a school playground, and when they see the principal (the marine patrol boat), they all start behaving,” Duncan said.
Younger suggested the town invest in two decibel-level meters, which will cost $4,000, and the commission reached consensus to purchase them.
The commission directed Town Manager Dave Bullock received direction to return in the fall with a ballpark figure of costs of a bigger weekend marine patrol presence to deal with noisy boaters.
Staff will also work on a revised noise ordinance that includes noise decibel measurements as a basis for enforcement.
The town will also consider posting signage on its shores to inform boaters of the town’s noise ordinance. If the commission chooses to shift to a noise-decibel meter ordinance, it will cost the town money and staff recourses to change the ordinance and train officers to use the new code.
In the meantime, Younger suggested an easier way to solve the problem.
“The sandbars these boats are anchoring on is the sand from our beaches,” Younger said. “Let’s dredge it up and put it back on our shores.”