PORT RICHEY — Once again faced with a crowd of local musicians and bar owners outraged over a proposed noise ordinance, council members backed away Tuesday night from imposing tougher restrictions.
It was déjà vu all over again for a City Council that just 17 months ago — at another City Hall meeting jammed with protesters — enacted an emergency noise ordinance to replace the previous one that banned all amplified outdoor sound.
Since that October 2010 meeting, the council has extended the life of the temporary ordinance several times. But with it set to expire April 26, an initial vote Tuesday to enact a permanent ordinance drew a full house.
Among the points of contention: The new proposal would have required businesses to obtain live entertainment permits in order to host musicians or other performers. The permit would cost $150 to start and $50 a year to renew.
As part of the application, businesses would have to provide a site plan showing where the entertainers would perform. The city would also outline requirements for providing enough parking and controlling vehicle emissions from all the traffic coming to the establishment.
The "smoke, noise, glare, dust, vibrations, fumes, pollution or odor effects related to the vehicular use area or the live entertainment shall not be detrimental to the adjoining properties in the general area," the proposed ordinance read.
After nearly three hours of discussion Tuesday night, council members agreed to strike the requirement for entertainment permits. But they gave initial approval to the rest of the ordinance, which returns for a final vote next month.
The measure would keep the 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. But it would change the spot where officials take the decibel reading. Instead of measuring sound at the property line, they would check the noise level at 50 feet from the source of the sound.
People at Tuesday's meeting used words like "draconian" and "overkill" to describe their reaction to the proposal.
"You're going to hurt every musician here," said Terry Ettel, whose band Wiley Fox regularly plays at local bars. "We support our families with this."
Others said the ordinance would put them out of business.
"I'll tell you that right now. I will be done," said Seaside Inn owner Don Johnson.
Council member Terry Rowe called the ordinance "over-reaching," and said he believed it would face legal challenge.
"I can't support this," he said.
Council member Nancy Britton, who has long pushed for tougher restrictions on noise in the city, painted a picture of what she goes through in her home as bands start playing nearby. She pleaded for local bar owners to be good neighbors to frustrated residents.
"I have been in my house and you could feel the windows moving," she said.
Johnson said he was pleased the entertainment permit requirement fell by the wayside, but said more work needs to be done before the final vote in two weeks. He said he will likely be back to oppose the plan to take decibel readings at 50 feet from the source of the sound.
"Really we feel the meter readings should be taken from the location where the complaint is filed. That's the only fair way to do it," he said.