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Proposed noise ordinance to get additional review

By Staff | Jul 23, 2019

A proposed noise ordinance will undergo additional discussion as Cape Coral City Council on Monday decided it needed another round of review before it comes to a vote.

Council tabled the proposal that would change allowable noise levels in the South Cape and change how residents elsewhere in the city can be cited and for what violations.

The ordinance will be discussed again at council’s next workshop meeting, set for Sept. 23.

The further delay has shown what a complicated topic sound has become for the city, whose entertainment district is surrounded by condos.

For the South Cape, the ordinance actually would raise allowable noise levels.

Current acceptable levels are 72 decibels from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and 65 decibels from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The entertainment district would allow sound up to 85 decibels from 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. and 65 decibels all other times.

Elsewhere, decibel readings are problematic, officials said.

Police Chief David Newlan said the current ordinance sets conditions that require decibel readings which can be unclear and subject to interpretation. Currently, such readings are measured from the complaint’s location, which results in ambient sound and false readings and don’t address other noises from cars or motorcycles, he said.

Such readings also don’t account for noise over water, wind, pitch or other factors that can skew readings.

The new ordinance, similar to the one in Tampa, would address residential complaints outside the entertainment district in a different way.

As is currently drafted, the ordinance would include noise generated by vehicles, would allow habitual offenders to be brought up for a code hearing and, perhaps the greatest change, would allow police and code officers to cite offenders without witnessing a violation provided there is a sworn witness statement backed by “a totality of the evidence” that establishes probable cause that a violation had occurred.

Newlan said the new ordinance would be more practical and useful for property owners and law enforcement and increase the ability for success in court against the offender.

However, residents during public comment Monday didn’t think it went far enough outside the South Cape. “Commercial rental properties” need to be considered, some said.

“Sometimes it’s not about decibels, but tranquility. Having multiple rental properties surrounding your home on a canal means you can have non-stop partying even within acceptable decibel levels,” said Tim Bradbury. “It doesn’t represent normal neighborhood performance.”

Trish Easton brought up fireworks as an issue, which she said can be dangerous to those with PTSD, while another said as a Tampa ordinance, Cape Coral should not be following what Ybor City does.

Councilmember David Stokes said he had a problem with an officer not having to witness a violation, since neighbors tend to exaggerate and may have a gripe against the other.

“A lot of people have been talking about parts of this on social media. I would like to have it tabled for a COW meeting to get citizens’ input,” Stokes said. “I won’t support it in its current form, but I do support police having enforcement to habitual offenders.”

The city considered changes to the noise ordinance last year. At the time it looked at whether to have an area exempt from noise regulations, centered on Cape Coral Parkway and Southeast 47th Terrace between Del Prado and Coronado.

Like the last time, the public had problems with the measure and it was agreed the ordinance had to be reworked.