By Jessica Tuggle
SEBASTIAN - Police officers would have final say in whether outdoor music venues are playing too loudly, according to a proposed ordinance in front of the Sebastian City Council.
After several months of complaints being filed, upset citizens calling council members late at night and research conducted by the Sebastian Police Department, the city council has regretfully agreed government is needed to step in and put an enforceable noise ordinance in place for outdoor music venues.
A final reading and public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. in city council chambers.
The ordinance that was given initial approval by the city council on Jan. 11 gave police officers the authority to decide if music is too loud and give citations to venues for repeat offenses. The ordinance would be in effect 24-hours a day and does not contain any reference to a decibel level that would be acceptable for music to be played.
Fines for noncompliance would be up to $500. The amount would depend on how many times the venue was found to be noncompliant.
Those provisions were not in the original staff recommendation presented to the council during the meeting. After reviewing a study conducted by Sebastian Police officers, observing the noise themselves and hearing from both business owners and residents, the city council members decided to make those adjustments.
Originally, the ordinance would have been enforceable between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and the sound would be measured in decibels for loudness.
The decibel level determining if the music was too loud would have been something set universally, but city council members and residents said there were too many variables in sound for a unilateral decibel level to be written into the ordinance.
Councilman Richard Gillmor said the wind coming off of the river could easily throw off a decibel reading, and a report by the police department noted an unusually high decibel reading was due to a number of motorcyclists driving by.
Sebastian Police Chief Michelle Morris said since October, there have been 10 noise complaints on businesses with consistent outdoor music, Captain Hiram's, Earl's Hideaway and the Tiki Bar and Grill, formerly called Suzi's Tiki Bar. However, only about 10 percent of calls come from riverfront music complaints, she said.
Business owners on the riverfront, including Ruth Sullivan, owner of Harbor Lights, an apartment complex, and Pam Morgan, owner of Oyster Pointe and Oyster Bay Resort, a timeshare facility, have said the volume of the music has been adversely affecting their businesses and is causing people to leave their establishments complaining of poor sleep.
Chris Pinson, a co-owner of Tiki Bar and Grill said he and his business partners have plans to remodel their facility to include landscaping to act as a buffer and absorb some of the music being played. He said the changes could include moving the bandstand.
He and other business owners on the riverfront who use music as an attraction said their business would be drastically affected if music were limited.
He said every time the complaints have been voiced, he has worked to comply and be a good neighbor.
Councilwoman Andrea Coy said she was disappointed an agreement couldn't be reached by the businesses and the residents alone, but she hoped the ordinance would help resolve the issue.
"We're not wanting the music to die," she said.
For more information on upcoming city government meetings, visit www.cityofsebastian.org.