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Officials hope new meter will resolve noise issues in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County residents plagued by noisy neighbors and their barking and squawking pets should soon get some relief.

County commissioners agreed Tuesday to purchase a new noise-measuring meter that will allow county staff to again be able to enforce Hernando's noise ordinance.

Last summer, the commission, by not taking any action, walked away from enforcing the ordinance.

The last working noise meter was broken, and commissioners chose not to buy a new one.

In addition, the county legal staff warned that the ordinance needed to be changed because its standard of "plainly audible'' noise had been ruled by a court to be unconstitutionally vague. The county would have to build specific noise limits into its rules, according to a memo from the staff.

Yet noise issues in county neighborhoods have continued, and commissioners have heard about a variety of problems, ranging from howling dogs to blaring stereos. They recently asked the staff to bring the issue forward again for consideration.

On Tuesday, commissioners heard from Luis Vergara of Brooksville's Hickory Creek Lane, who complained that a neighbor had established a motocross track on a parcel a quarter-mile from his property.

When the bikes are running, Vergara said, he cannot hear his television inside his home, even with all of the doors and windows closed.

He said he had been unable to get anyone with the county to help.

"To what point do I have to put up with this?'' he asked.

Liana Teague, the county's code and animal services manager, said the noise meter would help her staff enforce the ordinance. County officials also said they would look into any zoning infractions by the motocross track.

Spring Hill resident Gail Petrjcik told commissioners that her neighbor's dogs have "kept us up night and day'' with their barking. Frustrated by not getting anyone to help, she urged commissioners to do whatever they could to get a handle on noise nuisances.

County Attorney Garth Coller said the county didn't need a noise ordinance to resolve animal issues. The Sheriff's Office is charged with enforcing the county's nuisance animal law, he said.

"We've been struggling with this for three years,'' George Petrjcik said. "And no, the Sheriff's Office can't seem to do anything.''

Teague said she also wasn't aware of many residents who have been able to resolve their problems through the Sheriff's Office.

Coller told the board that recent rulings by a special magistrate over enforcing the nuisance animal law have been favorable to complaining residents. He suggested no changes for the time being in the county's rules — including any changes in the noise standards — because the current rules seem to be working.

Teague expressed gratitude that the commission was willing to get back into the enforcement activity. She also told commissioners that she thought the county could acquire a new noise meter for $2,000, with about a $300 cost for annual calibration.

"It's going to give a lot of people some comfort,'' she said. "They don't deserve to live this way.''

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

In other business

The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday:

• Heard more than a dozen residents who use the tennis courts and playground at Hernando Park in downtown Brooksville beg to keep those facilities open. The residents were told that the city of Brooksville will present its plan for the park to the commission on March 13. The county is considering transfer of the park to the city, but that has not yet happened. Brooksville officials and members of the Brooksville Vision Foundation have talked about a possible long-term plan for the park that would include moving the playground to a new site on the property and closing the tennis courts and relocating them elsewhere.

• Delayed approval of several changes in the county's housing assistance plan to expand uses of the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program. Commissioners were concerned about a proposal to set aside $175,000 to provide emergency roof replacements that would provide $10,000 in no-interest loans to low-income residents. The loans would be forgiven in 20 years. Commissioners asked county housing authority executive director Donald Singer to bring back a new proposal requiring that the loans be repaid when the property changes hands.

• Heard a plea from Amber Costa, who has been operating the concession at Stewy's Skate Park in Spring Hill until recently, to turn the park back over to her. The recent operator, the Save Stewy's Skatepark Organization, allowed the insurance at the park to lapse, breaching its agreement with the county. Interim County Administrator Ron Pianta said the county has taken over the park and plans to keep it open and seek proposals for its operation. Pianta urged Costa to submit a proposal.

• Approved a transition plan and time line for the consolidation of Hernando County Fire Rescue with Spring Hill Fire Rescue. The plan includes the county sponsoring a series of town hall meetings during April, May and June and a workshop in July regarding funding mechanisms, all leading up to full consolidation on Oct. 1, 2013.

Officials hope new meter will resolve noise issues in Hernando 02/28/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 8:34pm]
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