Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando County's noise ordinance has become unenforceable

BROOKSVILLE — What if a key county rule slipped away silently because the County Commission didn't make it enforceable?

The effect, so far, has been pretty much silence.

During a workshop last month, assistant county attorney Jon Jouben noted that Hernando County can no longer enforce its noise ordinance and he asked the board for direction on how to proceed.

He was responding to a request from County Commission Chairman Jim Adkins months earlier for ways to put teeth into the ordinance after constituents complained that they were not able to get reported nuisances quieted.

The ordinance has two tests for violation. One deals with loud vehicles that produce "clearly audible noise,'' but in May the 2nd District Court of Appeals determined that standard was unconstitutionally vague.

The second test covers other sounds. Depending on the land use category and the time of the sound, it sets the allowable level of decibels, a measure of the loudness of sound.

That's where the enforceability becomes even more of an issue, because the county's only decibel-measuring meter is broken.

Commissioner John Druzbick added a further complication. "We don't have the personnel to enforce it,'' he said during a July meeting.

As Jouben explained, the courts are reluctant to enforce noise restrictions during daylight hours. But at night, when people complain about their peace being ruined by neighbors revving up vehicles or turning up stereos, no one can enforce the rule because there are no code enforcement officers on duty.

Angry residents often call the Sheriff's Office to complain about noisy neighbors, but that can prove futile as well.

While deputies can enforce the county ordinances, "it's not their main priority,'' said Liana Teague, manager of code enforcement and animal services for the county. "Their main priority is safety and welfare.''

Sometimes, people bring their noise complaints directly to commissioners at board meetings. Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he heard recently from residents who complained about their neighbors' four loud birds.

Noisy birds are not covered in the noise ordinance, Teague explained. Barking dogs, however, are.

Adkins said he has heard from people whose neighbor decided to work on his muffler-less race car at night and another resident whose neighbor ran a noisy car and a very loud stereo after dark.

"It creates a little bit of a problem in the neighborhood,'' Adkins said.

Code enforcement does not receive a ton of noise complaints, Teague said. In the 2007-08 fiscal year, there were 26 cases filed and 15 of those were found to be violations. In 2008-09, the total was 24 with 11 determined to be violations. In 2009-10, there were 19 cases, with 11 violations.

And from October 2010 through July 10 this year, there were 10 cases with four violations.

No citations were issued in any of those years, Teague said.

Some people come into compliance after a complaint is lodged against them. In other cases, a complaint is made but by the time a code enforcement officer is dispatched, the reported violation is no longer taking place.

Public safety director Mike Nickerson told commissioners that the county could trade in its broken decibel meter and a new one would cost $2,075 plus a $500 annual fee for calibration. A new meter would run about $2,500 without a trade-in.

But the commission didn't choose to replace the meter.

Commissioner Dave Russell suggested that the board do nothing. "Nothing, that'll be good,'' Dukes agreed.

Since that time, code enforcement's customer service representatives have been telling people who call in with noise complaints that the county cannot enforce its ordinance. According to Teague, there have been none that have risen to her level.

Adkins, who initially raised the issue, said he hasn't had any recent noise complaints.

He said that if someone asks him what to do about a complaint, "I would tell them to call four other commissioners.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County's noise ordinance has become unenforceable 08/10/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 7:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022

    Business

    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]
  2. Late Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella was a fighter until the end

    Swimming Preps

    At swim meets, Cailin Cannella would race side-by-side with her breastroke competitors, their heads bobbing in near unison.

    Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella, here at age 13, still was practicing last year after finding out she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer). [Times 2016]
  3. Gators roundtable: Was that really a Hail Mary?

    College

    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks' last-second heave beat Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, but was it a Hail Mary, typically a pass made in desperation with little chance of success? The Times' college football coveage team weighs in:

    NO, BUT IT WAS A MIRACLE

    Feleipe Franks #13 of the Florida Gators celebrates with his teammates after he threw a 63-yard pass at the end of the game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  4. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection

    Columns

    Everyone ends up with a favorite

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, however, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  5. Tonight: St. Petersburg's six City Council candidates face off

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Politics took a break in Hurricane Irma, but now it's time for City Council races to get going. The Council of Neighborhood Associations is set to host a candidate forum for the six candidates vying for three council seats at stake in November.