Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa residents ask City Council for help with noise problems

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TAMPA — Clay Daniels sleeps with earplugs.

Kelly Bailey can feel her V.M. Ybor house shake. And she's worried about the children forced to hear vulgar lyrics.

A group of Tampa residents fed up with booming stereos wants the Tampa City Council to take bold steps to battle nuisance noise. And they don't want to wait for the Florida Legislature.

"We can't wait," said Daniels, who for years has pleaded for change.

Tampa currently bans noise above a certain decibel threshold, but authorities find it hard to enforce the ordinance because decibel readers are expensive, and Tampa police have only a few.

At a City Council workshop Thursday, council members talked about changing Tampa's ordinance from a decibel threshold to one that bans noise that is "plainly audible" at a certain distance.

One hundred feet seems reasonable, assistant city attorney Rebecca Kert told the council members.

Council member Frank Reddick suggested 50 feet.

Noise is not a new topic for council members. But their discussions had been sidelined for nearly two years while a controversial case wound its way to the Florida Supreme Court.

A St. Petersburg lawyer had fought a ticket he received in 2007 for blasting Justin Timberlake. He said the state's law was vague and unconstitutional.

In December, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the law is indeed unconstitutional because it makes exemptions for certain types of speech, such as political speech.

The Florida Legislature is working to remedy that.

Companion bills that would remove the exemptions have been making their way through committees in the House and Senate.

Until it passes, Tampa authorities' hands are tied when it comes to loud car stereos.

However, they have some authority when it comes to stationary noise, such as a stereo in a neighbor's yard.

Tampa officials are heartened by the fact the Supreme Court had no problem with the standard "plainly audible," so adopting that language in Tampa should be no problem.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the noise ordinance again April 18.

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