PORT RICHEY — After months of wrangling, efforts to craft a stricter noise ordinance appear to have ended.
For the second time in two weeks, local musicians and bar owners angry about a proposed noise ordinance came to City Hall on Tuesday to protest. This time, they left content.
In October of 1010, the City Council enacted an emergency noise ordinance to replace the previous one that banned all amplified outdoor sound. That emergency meeting came after police began enforcing the city's original ordinance amid increasing complaints from homeowners.
Since then, the council has extended the life of the temporary ordinance several times. But with it set to expire April 26, the council met Tuesday to discuss enacting a permanent ordinance.
About 20 residents, musicians were there to protest changes to how police can measure decibel levels for enforcement.
The city's temporary ordinance allowed police to measure decibel levels from the closest property line to a business or home to get a reading. But a new ordinance would allow readings to take place as close as 50 feet from the a noise source.
But with existing standards on noise levels, which are not supposed to exceed 55 decibels from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. or 60 decibels at any other time, some said local bars had no chance of offering live music if measurements can be taken 50 feet from the source.
"That's just room level conversation," said resident Marion Davis.
Others wondered whether the ordinance would allow police to enter homes and businesses without a warrant to take readings.
"Nobody's going in my home or my parents' home without a warrant," said resident Mark Lobianco.
Acting Mayor Bill Colombo assured the crowd that the ordinance would not increase the rights of police to enter private property. Council member Terry Rowe expressed concern over the 50-foot rule before making a motion to change the ordinance back to taking readings at the property line.
"Our Police Department is going to look like the Gestapo," Rowe said, if the 50-foot rule is enforced.
Rowe's motion also bumped up the allowed decibel level during the day to 65. In a 3-1 vote, with Colombo voting no, the council passed the first reading with the two changes. A final vote will be in two weeks.
Seaside Inn owner Don Johnson, who has been active in drumming up opposition to changes to the temporary noise ordinance, praised the council's decision, for the most part.
Johnson, whose waterfront bar often has live music, said he still believes that decibel levels should be taken from the source of a complaint.
"But they have come a long way tonight," he said of the council. "I won't say I'm happy, but I'm satisfied."