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Politics

New law quiets car stereos; buildings next

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Published:   |   Updated: January 23, 2014 at 06:18 PM

TAMPA — Changes last year to Tampa’s noise ordinance appear to be muffling some of the trunk-thumping stereos that inspired it, police told Tampa City Council today.

But the rules could still use some tweaking to deal with the racket from bars and restaurants, according to one City Council member.

Tampa police Capt. Eric Ward told council members the department issued fewer tickets and warnings for noisy vehicles during the second half of 2013.

“People who know about the ordinance call constantly,” Ward said. “There are people who call me every day about noise.”

The City Council last year gave police the OK to ticket drivers whose car stereos can be heard plainly from 50 feet away. They made the change in response to complaints from people living in East Tampa and other parts of town who said the noisy cars were disturbing the peace in their neighborhoods.

The change loosened the old rules, which required officers to measure sound in decibels — a task that proved challenging because the department has just a few devices to make them. By the time an officer got his hands on one, the offending vehicle often had moved on.

The council made its change after the state Legislature declined to pass its own measure to rein in noise from vehicles last year. A previous municipal law, which banned loud music but not political or commercial messages, was struck down by a court in 2012.

Ward said the city issued 89 tickets and 187 warnings to people violating the noise ordinance between July and December 2013. As word of the new rules spread, complaints, warnings and tickets all decreased, Ward said.

Ward said the city issued 29 tickets and 91 warnings for noisy cars in last July, a month after the city council passed the ordinance. By December, the numbers had dropped to 16 tickets and 10 warnings.

“Basically, you feel this is working,” Councilman Frank Reddick, the chief advocate for the revised noise ordinance, said to Ward.

“That’s correct,” Ward said.

Councilman Harry Cohen, whose district includes increasingly busy bar scene along South Howard, said it may be time to revisit the way the noise ordinance is applied to buildings, as well. It is set for further discussion Feb. 20.

As now written, the noise ordinance requires police to measure the sound coming off a building with a decibel reader in Ybor City, downtown and the Channel District. Outside those areas, police can do that or use the “plainly audible” standard” at 100 feet away.

 

“If you find during this period that you’d like to recommend some, I’m sure we’d be open to it,” Cohen said.

Here are highlights from other action by the City Council on Thursday.

Settled a year-long legal dispute with the owner of the SoHo Saloon over expanding the alcohol permit for the business at 410 S. Howard Ave. Council members first approved then denied a permit in early 2013 because the site lacked parking. David Singer, attorney for saloon owner Michael Disser, asked council members to approve the settlement, which lets Disser serve liquor along with beer and wine and requires him to provide on-site parking.

Gave city officials 120 days to develop a long-term plan for Cuscaden Pool, the historic, above ground pool in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood. The pool has been shuttered since 2010, when it began leaking after a costly renovation. Bob McDonaugh, Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s economic development chief, told council members the city needed the time to come with a final decision on the fate of the pool.

Voted down 4-3 a proposal to create a task force to review the way the city regulates alcohol. Liquor permitting has tied the council in knots since several late-night shootings at clubs in East Tampa and West Tampa. Last month, council members backed off a proposal to require bars and restaurants to buy permits to operate past midnight after it caused an uproar among Ybor City businesses. Council members asked to have that proposal reintroduced Feb. 6, along with language defining what constitutes a night club.

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7871

Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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