A 10-year-old could solve the St. Petersburg noisy bell dispute | Editorial
The bell rings every time a car leaves the parking garage of a upscale residential tower.
The bell mounted at the Ovation, an exclusive Beach Drive condo tower.
The bell mounted at the Ovation, an exclusive Beach Drive condo tower. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Dec. 2, 2021

The world has so many intractable problems — wars, hunger, an ongoing pandemic. The Tampa Bay area struggles with clogged roads, housing affordability and the specter of sea levels rising into our living rooms. Many local public schools can’t attract enough teachers. Too many people live on the streets or in our jails.

And then there is the controversial bell that alerts pedestrians that cars are exiting one of St. Petersburg’s priciest downtown residential towers. The little noisemaker is of no global consequence. Even most local Times readers won’t ever hear for whom this bell clangs. This tempest would barely occupy a teapot. But that’s its advantage — the problem is so easily remedied.

First, the quick backstory, as reported by the Times’ Christopher Spata. The bell clings to an outside wall of Ovation, a Beach Drive tower where residences often fetch more than $3 million. It rings every time a car or truck leaves the gated parking garage onto First Street N. The chime, which sounds day and night, has caught the attention of at least a few nearby residents and office workers, chief among them Fred Sherman, who lives in a different tower a block south. He can’t stand the bell, which he describes as noise pollution. Each time it rings, “it sounds like the inmates are escaping,” he told the Times.

Sherman accurately points out that other nearby towers have less noisy ways of alerting pedestrians to exiting vehicles. Some employ a voice message or a warning light. Some have no signal at all. He says he has tried for two years without success to get the city or Ovation to address the ringing. He eventually filed a nuisance suit against Ovation, which a judge recently sent to mediation. (The Ovation Owners Association and the company that manages the building declined to speak to the Times about the bell.)

Anyone who chooses to live in a busy downtown should willingly tolerate a little noise, but the bell does seem unnecessarily loud. A little after noon on Wednesday, the clanging could be heard from more than a block and a half away. Plus, it lets out one set of rings, pauses, and then lets out a second. By the time of the second burst, many of the cars exiting on Wednesday were already on or beyond the sidewalk, rendering the second ring superfluous.

Now this is the type of dispute that 10-year-olds sort out on playgrounds all around the country in just seconds. They talk about it, present some solutions, and come up with a plan. Sometimes they compromise. But they find a way to return to the more fun parts of life, like playing Minecraft, dirtying their new shoes and finding creative ways to turn the family dog into a pillow. Unfortunately, adults like to waste lots of money on lawyers.

So in the spirit of all those 10-year-olds, we recommend this easy to follow guide:

Sherman: Does the current bell really need to ring twice like it does now?

Ovation: We’ll take another look at that.

Sherman: And how about muffling the ring, employing a quieter buzzer or installing a warning light instead?

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Ovation: Sure. We want to be good neighbors.

Problem solved. Now we can all get back to the pandemic.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.