How loud is too loud when it comes to noise in Apalachicola?
That question will be taken up at a city commission workshop this Monday afternoon, April 25 at 4 p.m. as part of a proposed revision to the city’s noise ordinance first adopted more than a decade ago. City commissioners then plan to consider the revisions at their Tuesday afternoon, May 3 regular meeting.
The current draft, presented at the April 5 meeting by Commissioner Adriane Elliott, contends the existing rules are “outdated and unreasonably restrictive.” The packet cointends the changes were gleaned from an earlier public workshop as well as field work by City Manager Travis Wade, Police Chief Bobby Varnes, and City Attorney Dan Hartman.
“This will allow local law enforcement officials to equally enforce the ordinance fairly throughout the city, and close loopholes that allow for targeted harassment of business owners and lcoal individuals in the community,” reads the outline to the proposal.
The current proposal for maximum decibel level (dBA) would be 75 dBA in residential areas between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., which would then drop to 65 dBA in these areas between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
In the commercial district, the maximum would be 85 dBA between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Where the measurements of the decibel level are taken is sure to be debated, as it could be the property line of the commercial establishment or the complainant’s property line.
Also an issue that is likely to be discussed is that standards can be set for differing sound types, such as one that considers the bass level, the thumping sound that can prove the most annoying to neighbors.
Dr. Robert Zingarelli, a research physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory, and holder of a doctorate in physics from Florida State University, offered expertise to city officials, and at the April 5 meeting, he touched briefly on how sounds can be broken down into different acoustical categories.
He said measurements can be done with an inexpensive smartphone app. “It’s no harder than a speedometer on a car,” said Zingarelli.
He noted that outdoor festivals need to be addressed in a revised noise ordinance.
Three local musicians, David Lloyd, Jeff Dutrow and Tommy Cooper, shared their views at the outset of the meeting, each voicing support for a relaxation of the rules.
Lloyd said he has performed live music in front of the Oyster City Brewing Company, and that the sound was recently shut down by law enforcement, just as it had been in the days following Hurricane Michael, when locals gathered downtown in large numbers.
“What are the objections? A lot of people like it, they enjoy it,” Lloyd said, noting that Clayton Mathis, manager of OCBC has led spontaneous programs that have included gospel music.
“I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea,” he said. “I want to know how we can work it out. It brings more people downtown and that’s good for business.”
Cooper said that a little over four years ago he started playing at the corner of the OCBC brewery, and that since then he’s played over 100 times, each time with the permission of OCBC.
“I’m never amplified and never blocking the sidewalk,” he said. “I may every now and then get a little rowdy. Most recently a cop tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘you’re over the sound limit and I have to call the police chief.”
Varnes told commissioners that the officer’s primary concern had been the large crowd that had gathered at the intersection.
While Monday’s workshop will also focus on how the city plans to spend its American Rescue Plan monies (see related story), one issue that will not be formally discussed is Elliott’s idea that the city consider creating a downtown tourism district.
“I had been researching different areas that use the ability to create special districts to enhance economic development,” said Elliott, who had sought to have the matter discussed at next week’s workshop.
At the request of Mayor Brenda Ash, Elliott agreed to postpone the discussion to a later date.