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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.