DUNEDIN — Ongoing tension between a Dunedin Causeway resident and a restaurant owner about loud noise has prompted the city to shell out cash toward a $2,200 noise study in hopes of mediating the situation.
The dispute apparently began when Island Outpost Restaurant opened in August 2010.
Almost immediately, restaurant owner Paul Kalli said, Bill Leo, who lives next door, began complaining that live bands and singing customers made too much noise.
In dozens of phone calls, emails and an impromptu speech that interrupted a December meeting at City Hall, Leo has accused city leaders, city code enforcement workers, police officers and firefighters of pandering to the interests of the business.
City leaders have said city code enforcement workers armed with noise meters found no problems when they arrived. City staffers say they "repeatedly advised" Leo to call Pinellas sheriff's deputies about loud noise instead of leaving weekend messages on city voicemail or calling the mayor at home on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings. Leo has said the bands typically pipe down when city staff or police arrive, and he accused police of failing to issue citations when warranted.
According to a city memo, Leo threatened to call the city each day unless Kalli completely stopped all outdoor entertainment or purchased his home.
So in January, the city and Kalli evenly split the cost of a $2,200 study by Fagen Acoustical Consultants of St. Petersburg, which found noise levels on that particular night fell well below the maximum 65 decibels allowed by city ordinance.
"The residents say it was unusually quiet," the consultants wrote. "... If these observed conditions were what occurred all the time, it is unlikely there would be any complaints."
However, Kalli followed the consultants' recommendation to move the band area and turned the speakers away from Leo's home. He spent about $5,000 installing a restaurant-monitored sound system for bands to plug into. He's even considering putting up a soundproof wall.
The expenditures seems to have quieted the dispute between Leo and Kalli — for now.
Leo, a 70-year-old retired school administrator and seasonal Florida resident, says noise levels have improved over the last week. Kalli said he's likewise not heard from Leo.
Leo, who has lived in the Townhomes of Dunedin Causeway for 11 years, said other residents, including those who live in the nearby Macedonian Condos, have complained. The report and city officials noted that several others have complained, but city officials said Leo has made "99 percent of complaints."
"I know there's been good efforts on the part of the owner and the city, but it's not been completely successful," Leo said Friday. "We're continuing to hope that the owner will be responsive."
He added: "We understand ... the operator has to make a living and we're okay with that. It's just that when the sound gets very loud and the crowd is encouraged to sing by the musicians, in my bedroom on a Tuesday night the music really was not very reasonable at all."
Matthew Campbell, assistant to the city manager, said the Island Outpost property has been zoned for commercial use for more than 20 years and predates the residential zoning near it.
Dunedin officials will continue to monitor the situation and respond, Campbell said.
Kalli is not convinced that will help. He says he's endured sometimes daily verbal assaults by Leo and doesn't believe Leo will ever be happy.
"My next move will be, if he keeps on abusing and threatening, I've already contacted an attorney and we're going to get a court order so we can keep him away," Kalli said.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.