Sound meters on way as noise beefs come in loud and clear

Sound meters to be purchased by Indian Harbour Beach will help enforce new noise ordinance rules – but the business that prompted the crackdown did not survive long enough to have to follow the new rules.

Noise complaints were common in the month-long tenure of Hops and Dough, 630 E. Eau Gallie Blvd., Indian Harbour Beach, which ended mid-March in a tangle of legal and criminal disputes involving its owners.

Complaints from nearby residents, some of them outside the city in the multi-jurisdictional area, reported that the business had been opening its doors at 11 p.m. or midnight with a live band or loud amplified music, said City Manager Mark Ryan.

Police would respond, but were frustrated because they faced a lengthy and complicated enforcement process in addressing the noise problem.

“There was nothing we could do about it. That started the wheels in motion to explore doing the noise ordinance using a noise meter,’’ he said

The current noise ordinance, expected to be amended with a new chapter Dec. 14, is very general and only specifies any noise audible off the premises of a business from an amplified source from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. For residential properties, there was no specified prohibited time, meaning, in essence, if the sound could be heard off your property, it was too loud, said Indian Harbour Beach Police Chief David Butler.

“The original is so strict that if you hear it, it’s a violation. Now we’re saying it has to be over a certain decibel level. It gives them a very specific measure other than I can just hear it. We have never had that before. We had to issue a warning. Now the officer can go ahead and fine them right then, but in most cases they probably won’t. This will be better. It gives the officers a lot more credibility. Our guys want to be reasonable,” he said.

Problems areas which should improve include in condos, construction noise, barking dogs and landscaping noise, especially early in the morning during hot weather. Other specific noise enforcement problems under the old rules sometimes involved exuberant fans watching sporting events, Butler said.

“We would get called out if there was a group of friends watching the Super Bowl on TV and there’s a touchdown and everybody screams. Because it could be heard, it was technically in violation, but when we would get there it would be quiet. This sets how loud and for how long,’’ he said.

Generally, the new rules for Indian Harbour Beach state that noise is sound that exceeds 10 decibels above ambient sound level and that a maximum of 65 decibels is declared to be loud and excessive in most districts. Residential areas have a maximum of 60 decibels.

“The way the ordinance was before it was very generic, basically just one paragraph. We’ve certainly gone more in depth. With the new amended ordinance it’s going to have to be over a certain decibel level. The meters are really going to be helpful in those situations,’’ Ryan said.  

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