The Holmes Beach outdoor dining ordinance allows only unamplified music if played outdoors, but the ordinance has typically been enforced on a complaint-by-complaint basis.
Following a consensus by commissioners at a May 30 work session, musicians playing outdoors are required to unplug, and HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer was directed to enforce the ordinance.
The consensus came after a discussion on the city’s noise ordinance, which has not been updated since 1978, according to city attorney Patricia Petruff, who called the ordinance “archaic.”
The issue became known after residents living near the city field adjacent to city hall complained about loud music during recent events.
Mayor Carmel Monti noted that even language in the city’s outdoor dining ordinance that addresses amplified music contains varying language that allows up to 110 decibels at the city field, while businesses are required to keep decibel levels at 60.
“We need more consistency and I feel like it needs more discussion,” said Monti. “We are the worst offenders by allowing the park to broadcast at 110 decibels.”
Commission Chair Jean Peelen brought to light that by law, there is to be no amplified music outdoors.
“We just never enforced it,” she said.
Tokajer said he needed guidance in how to enforce the noise ordinance because it does not address times, decibel levels or a form of measuring distance from a complainant to the offending source of noise.
“Right now, the code says outdoor dining can’t have amplified music,” he said. “Is that something you want enforced and, if not, then you need to change it.”
Petruff suggested she and the chief work together to research other noise ordinances “to figure out what is your goal and get you to your goal in a manner that won’t be challenged in court.”
Petruff said it’s a freedom of speech issue and noise ordinances can be difficult to get right.
Monti said he would like to see the commission start from scratch.
“We are dealing with an archaic system,” he said. “We need to have consistencies and agreement. We need a clean slate and create an ordinance to deal with noise.”
Commissioner Judy Titsworth said her goal is likely similar to other Holmes Beach citizens.
“My goal is to not to have to listen to anyone else’s playlist when I’m at home,” she said. “As a commissioner, I’m embarrassed because we are the biggest offenders. My goal is to quiet us down.”
The city allows nonprofits use of the city field for events, which often feature live bands up to 10 p.m., the allowed time in the ordinance.
Titsworth said a problem with continuing to handle noise on complaint-by-complaint basis is that enforcement becomes picking and choosing between one business and another “when everybody should have to follow the same rules.”
Peelen said it appeared there was a consensus that the noise ordinance needs to be updated, but said too many opinions from commissioners would dilute the process.
She suggested the mayor, Tokajer and Petruff work together to present solutions to the commission.
“But all the rules of the current ordinance will be enforced until changes are made,” said Monti.
Tokajer asked if enforcing the limit on outdoor amplified music was to be included and Monti said, “Yes.”
The announcement affects the owner of Barefoot Tiki Bar & Cafe Nicole Heslop, who appeared before the commission to ask for a change in the land development code to allow amplified music outdoors.
Heslop said the business, 5704 Marina Drive, has found new life since introducing live music in January. She said without the music, she would likely have to close the doors to the property after 20 years of trying to give it purpose.
“I come to you on bent knee to ask for your support,” she said.
According to public comment, the majority of complaints about the Barefoot Tiki Bar are coming from one person.
Monti said he would take a closer look at the complaints, but his final word was to enforce the ordinance until permanent changes are made.