Noise ordinance violations could soon be left up to a police officer's ear

Tampa City Council to eliminate decibel standard
Posted at 6:22 PM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-05 18:22:28-05

"The parking lot next door, there’s squealing tires, playing music too loud," said Michael Scharnow.

He is desperate for change. He actually put up insulation in his Kennedy and North Mabry home all to cut down on the noise next door. Some Tamp City Council members want to help.

“It’s a big problem. It’s one of the largest problems we have," said council member Harry Cohen.

After a two year debate, council wants to change how police officers measure noise. The current system requires officers to measure it with a meter. Over 55 decibels, about the same noise as an AC unit, means you’re in violation. But Cohen says, their system doesn’t work.

“When you are doing a decibel measurement. It’s also going to pick up noise on the sidewalks and streets and other areas," he said.

Meaning, the measurements have a hard time holding up in court. That’s why council is voting on eliminating the decibel standard. Allowing officers to judge for themselves.

“Is it thumping and pounding, is this a property that they’ve had complaints with in the past?” said Cohen of potential guidelines.

He says similar noise ordinances have worked, around the nation. Alongside the city attorney, council is coming up with guidelines to define what constitutes “unreasonably loud” noise.

There are exceptions to that changing ordinance. Entertainment districts like Channelside and Ybor, won’t be impacted at all. Those areas have an 85 decibel limit. That’s about the same amount of noise as a food blender.

“We’re not going to disturb what’s working, we’re going to fix what’s not working," said Cohen.

Scharnow is hoping the changes will make a difference.

“I think it’s a good start," he said.

Council decides December 15th.