Tampa City Council repeals controversial noise ordinance

After initially being approved, city council has repealed the noise ordinance.

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click to enlarge Ybor City at dusk. - Michael M. Sinclair
Michael M. Sinclair
Ybor City at dusk.
This afternoon, Tampa City Council repealed a controversial noise ordinance that would limit outdoor volume in areas throughout the city.

In a 4-2 vote, council repealed the ordinance, with Charlie Miranda and Bill Carlson voting against repealing it.

Instead, the city is instead planning on holding meetings to address the noise issues that vary between different parts of the city. Council called for staff to present a community engagement plan by April 21.

Council also requested that city staff present an updated ordinance that addresses the immediate problems faced by residents of the Channelside district on April 7.

During the meeting today, public comment was split between approving the ordinance and shooting it down. The main complainants about the noise were residents of Channelside. People who live there called for the area to be considered differently than Ybor City, which has been known as a loud entertainment district for decades.
Councilman Viera agreed, saying that the ordinance needs to be repealed and revisited so the issues of each district can be addressed.

"What I would like to see is for us to move forward from this ordinance, so that we can, like has been said before, deal with the unique issues involved in Ybor City," Viera said.

The initial ordinance sought to ban all amplified sound in Ybor after midnight and allow police to fine businesses with no warning should they have outdoor music at certain decibel levels. It also sought to restrict decibel levels to conversational volume between 1 a.m.-3 a.m., which is often prime time business hours in the historic and entertainment district.

The noise ordinance was initially approved, but after backlash from the community, mainly business owners and residents of Ybor, council made their first vote to repeal their approval of it on Feb. 17.
When the ordinance was first presented in January business owners said that it would disrupt their business and livelihoods.

A lawyer representing business owners in Ybor claimed that the ordinance was unconstitutional, citing the right to self expression and free speech. Florida Supreme Court case law supported their claims.

City lawyers offered to adjust some language of the ordinance, but stuck by banning all amplified outdoor sound in Ybor after midnight, which was a sticking point for some council members and several community members.

"The main point of contention was the outdoor amplified sound after midnight," councilman Bill Carlson said. "And if you look at most of the venues in Ybor, most of them primarily have indoor capability but there are several that have outdoor sound."
After several meetings with the community, city attorneys decided to walk away from talks with the public, informing city council that they should answer questions about the ordinance themselves.

"We need direction from Council, which points to which amendments you want to move forward with so that we know what we're talking to the community about," Nicole B. Travis, Administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity told council.

Gudes gave Travis his input, saying that city staff need to engage with specific problems in each community to create a noise ordinance that is fair for everyone.

"Each district is unique in itself," Gudes said.

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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