Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Brooksville council will consider tweaking new noise ordinance

BROOKSVILLE — As the heavy bass beat throbbed from the black Chevy SUV parked 92 feet away, Brooksville Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn covered his ears and grimaced.

"That really gets to you," Hohn said, turning to police Chief George Turner. "I can't imagine someone trying to drive a car with that going on."

But people do. And although the city has reinstated a car stereo ordinance, designed to curb the sound coming from "boom" cars, some City Council members believe it needs to be tweaked to be more fair to drivers whose sound systems aren't so offensive.

At a previous meeting, council member Frankie Burnett said he wasn't aware how restrictive the ordinance was until he realized that turning up the volume on the gospel music he plays while driving could earn him a citation if it's detectable beyond 25 feet.

"Is the rule too restricting?" Burnett asked fellow council members. "Are people going to get tickets that don't need to get tickets?"

Monday night's demonstration proved just how powerful modern audio systems have become. The demonstration vehicle, which was seized through a drug arrest, has two 14-inch sub woofer speakers mounted in a cabinet. And while the window-rattling, mind-frazzling car stereos are a top source of complaints to the city's Police Department, enforcement is difficult because officers have to first determine where the sound is coming from, Turner said.

"We've used laser meters to measure the distance, but we don't have them in every (patrol) car," he said. "The best thing we can do is to wait for them and see if we can catch them."

Originally adopted in 2008, the city suspended its vehicle noise ordinance two years ago until a state Supreme Court case over the validity of the law could be decided. So the law would apply to everyone, city attorneys decided to remove language in Brooksville's ordinance that made exceptions for business or political purposes.

Since its reinstatement last month, officers have handed out 10 citations and have been targeting areas where Turner said residents have complained the most. The majority of the offenders were in an area near Hernando High School.

First-time offenders must pay a $250 fine, while second offenses carry a $500 fine, plus a possibility of impoundment of the vehicle if the fine is not paid. Turner said that while the threat of a citation seems to have had an effect, it hasn't eliminated the problem.

"Some of these people aren't going to care who it bothers," he said. "So we plan to keep on ticketing them."

While he supports the city's efforts to curb obtrusive noise, council member Joe Johnston worried that the ordinance could be seen as selectively enforced.

"It's a concern to me because we allow vehicles in the Christmas parade to play music that violates the ordinance, so the question becomes whether we should provide a stated exemption to those situations," Johnston said.

Council members asked City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha to further research the city's nuisance noise laws, with plans to revisit the issue at the council's Dec. 2 meeting.

Several Florida communities with noise ordinances, including Tampa, Jacksonville Beach and Lake Placid, have adopted a 50-foot enforcement zone.

Turner said he thought a longer distance would be "more palatable and more enforceable."

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.

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Published: 05/25/18