Who Do We Want To Be?
It’s time again for our Town to decide who we are and who we want to be.
Are we a live music destination for SWFL?
Are we a quiet residential town?
Or are we both or something in between?
The subject of noise is not a new one. With an existing ordinance crafted years ago that has been deemed unenforceable, you know noise has been an issue for a very long time. If anyone thought a new ordinance could be crafted quickly or easily, they certainly know better now.
The Town’s draft of a noise ordinance has gone through more changes than a Vegas showgirl as it wound its way through the LPA and Council work sessions on its way to a probable Public Hearing at a Town Council meeting on May 18th. At this point the May 18th agenda and a copy of the exact ordinance being proposed is not yet available as it’s with the Town Attorney. A copy will be available when it is placed on the agenda and the agenda is published, so watch the Town’s website.
There is some confusion on the noise issue and that is not helping the discussion. Recently Nervous Nellie’s was told they were not allowed to have amplified music outside based on a COP provision for the property from over 10 years ago, dating from before it was Nervous Nellie’s. Realizing that only a few tables right next to the musicians would hear non-amplified music, they opted to cancel all outside music. They still have inside music. The next step looks to be a request for a COP variance that would allow amplified music outside.
The Noise Ordinance is a separate issue. Right now, the Town doesn’t have an enforceable noise ordinance. Crafting one that addresses the concerns of residents and those of music-lovers and businesses is a tightrope walk that pits the need for objective sound measurement against the subjective impression of those hearing the sound and the question of how much noise is too much.
We are an entertainment destination. People flow over our bridges not just for our beautiful beaches but also for our entertainment options, chief among them the variety of live music offered here. Country, rock, pop, blues, jazz and more – if you love music, you’ll find a venue here playing your kind of song. That reputation has been built over decades of live music. Our decades-long reputation as a live music destination should be considered in any discussion of noise levels.
Right now there are over 20 venues that offer live music in our Town ranging from a single musician playing acoustic guitar to a 5-piece band with amplifiers. In some venues, the music stops at 8 pm, in others, it goes until 1 am. The hours and location of music vary based on the limitations most often specified in the Consumption on Premise (COP) permit for that business. As a result we have a confusing patchwork of music hours. This is part of the reason it’s so difficult to craft a noise ordinance to address music.
Add in bass levels, background noise, ambient noise and a discussion of which scale to use when measuring noise, it’s a very confusing issue. And confusion is fertile ground for rumors, something never in short supply. Let’s address a couple.
No one is talking about eliminating all live music in Fort Myers Beach. A new noise ordinance may impact open-air music venues and the volume that live music is played in them, but to date, not a single Town official or council member has suggested banning all live music.
Speaking of rumors, there is a persistent one that some residents might be using the noise ordinance as a way to take another swipe at businesses and business owners they have long-standing issues with. We hope that one is not true. But if it is, we trust our Town Council to make decisions, as always, based on the best interests of the entire community.
Kudos to Beach Chamber President Bud Nocera for initiating a roundtable discussion with representatives of both residents and businesses along with Rexann Hosafros as mediator to discuss noise issues. Kudos also to all six members of that group and Hosafros for devoting your time and effort to this important community issue. After three meetings, they came up with five suggestions regarding the ordinance that the entire group agreed upon.
Their first suggestion - putting volume control in management’s hands via an internal sound system - makes sense. The group suggests that any business undergoing renovation install an internal system. That way management controls the volume.
The group also proposes an entertainment license, a new concept. They suggest that this entertainment license could be revoked with multiple noise violations, rather than losing their COP license as had been proposed. They also are onboard with different standards for daytime vs. nighttime noise along with a few other points.
Hopefully these suggestions find their way into the discussion of the final noise ordinance. This kind of calm, intelligent discussion between those who hold different viewpoints is the way to solve community issues. We always learn more by listening to each other and trying to find common ground. While not always easy, the end result is worth the effort.