NEW PORT RICHEY — The New Port Richey City Council has taken the first step toward replacing a noise ordinance that police say is unenforceable.
During its meeting Tuesday night, the council unanimously passed on first reading a new ordinance that would set maximum decibel levels during certain times of the day. A second reading is scheduled for Nov. 15.
The city sought a change because police continue to field numerous noise complaints in both residential and commercial areas of the city, particularly regarding downtown bars and restaurants, police Chief Kim Bogart told the council. Officers, however, continually run into problems because the city's current noise ordinance does not provide an objective way for police to measure decibel levels, Bogart said. The ordinance leaves it up to a particular officer to decide what is too loud, a subjective decision that courts frown upon. It has left the Police Department's hands tied.
"Right now I have no tools to deal with this problem," Bogart said.
The new ordinance would provide police and city code enforcement with a decibel range to work with in both residential and commercial areas. A violation would occur at the following levels:
• Residential: From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 55 decibels; from 10:01 p.m. to 6:59 a.m., 50 decibels.
• Non-residential: From 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 70 decibels; from 11:01 p.m. to 6:59 a.m., 55 decibels.
As a comparison, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists typical sound levels for a conversation 3 feet away at 60 decibels, classroom chatter at 70 decibels and a nightclub with music at 110 decibels.
Under the new ordinance, police could take sound measurements from any property adjacent to another property that has been identified by a complainant.
The council favored the ordinance, but called on the city staff to inform local businesses of the ordinance before the next hearing, and also to inform the public about it prior to enforcement.
"I don't want to get the, 'Oh, I didn't know,' comment," Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips said.