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Proposal to increase allowable noise levels in South Cape draws concerns

By Staff | Sep 24, 2019

The Cape Coral City Council revisited city staff’s long-debated noise ordinance again Monday with a proposal to increases allowable noise levels and the hours such sound is permitted drawing the most concern.

The issue brought numerous residents who live close to the South Cape Entertainment District to speak during citizens input, including one who deals with the issue as a member of the Community Redevelopment Agency board.

Currently, the limit downtown is 72 decibels until 10 p.m. and 65 from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m., with the city perhaps looking to increase it to 85 decibels until 3 a.m. This had Linda Biondi asking why.

“None of the other areas go to 85 decibels in their noise ordinances,” Biondi said, adding she was speaking as a citizen. “I do not understand why you would want to up the ante. I understand you have an entertainment district, but you also have residents within a block from some of these establishments.”

The noise ordinance came up for a vote on July 22, when it was decided the ordinance needed more work. It was determined the decibel readings were subject to interpretation, did not address noises such as from motorcycles, was unenforceable and impractical in some areas of the city.

Police Chief Dave Newlan said the new ordinance would take a decibel reading from the property line of the generator, which are adjusted due to the change of location. It would allow an officer to cite the offender without witnessing or hearing a violation based on the totality of circumstances, making it easier to enforce.

Newlan suggested a compromise to 75 decibels from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 70 decibels after that in the entertainment district.

Outside of that area, Newlan said decibel readings would not apply.

Citywide, if an officer could hear the noise 100 feet from the noise source after 11 p.m., they could cite. If the noise causes vibrations in another structure, there would be a warning, then a citation. If there is a sworn complaint and probable cause is established, they could be cited.

There are other exceptions, such as if someone throws a party with a band on a weeknight and creates a ton of noise.

The ordinance would allow the officer to cite an offender without witnessing a violation based on the totality of circumstances, making it easier to enforce, Newlan said.

Councilmember John Gunter said he was looking for specificity, so perhaps a decibel reading would be appropriate and not something more arbitrary.

“Grossly loud to you may not be for someone else. I would like a decibel level approach to this or look at other hours of the night,” Gunter said. “Most municipalities measure the noise from the source and I think that’s a good approach.”

Gunter said Cape Coral is unique in that there is no commercial areas to buffer the noise from the entertainment district from residents, which most cities have. This may penalize establishments that happen to be next to residential.

“We need to look at how far away you are from a residential unit because then we can determine where that decibel level should be,” said Gunter, who got applause when he said no outdoor music should be played on a weeknight after 10 p.m. or outdoor music on the weekend after 11 p.m. unless by special event permit. “I’m business oriented, but there is a compromise here.”

Councilmember Rick Williams said his pet peeves are motorcycles and “zoom-zoom” cars, which he can hear from a mile away. He asked if those would be covered under the ordinance.

Newlan said they would be.

Mayor Joe Coviello said he wanted to see some more teeth, such as lowering the after 11 p.m. limit to 65 decibels and more rules on rental units.

“We have vacationers who don’t have to go to work and they’re partying. I want to see more definition for those circumstances,” Coviello said.

Newlan said that is where the sworn complaint clause comes in.

The ordinance is expected to come back to Council in the not-to-distant future.