As Downtown St. Petersburg continues to build up, new residents are facing a problem that has plagued downtown residents for more than a decade – excessive noise.
“I spent most of my life in Greenwich Village, Manhattan on Bleecker Street. I lived there for 45 years – wall to wall bars,” one resident of Bayfront Tower in downtown St. Petersburg told the Development Review Commission (DRC) Wednesday. “Nowhere is it as noisy there as it is downtown here in certain places.”
Now, the City of St. Petersburg has passed its first hurdle in moving forward new changes to the city’s noise ordinance. The DRC passed multiple noise ordinance changes forward to City Council Wednesday, following nearly two years of study and public meetings coordinated by the city.
The changes would amend the establishments that must adhere to the noise ordinances beyond bars and restaurants to all nonresidential accessory outdoor areas, and clarify that either sound buffers to residential areas or noise mitigation plans must be in place for all nonresidential outdoor areas. These would include event centers, performing arts venues and hotels with outdoor entertaining areas.
One major departure from past policy also requires newly established businesses open after “quiet hours” to create noise mitigation and monitoring plans. The most substantive changes would create stiffer penalties for violators of existing code by establishing a progressive penalty system. A first violations would warrant a warning, while second and third violations within the same 12 months would each carry $500 fines. After the third violation, the City could suspend the establishment’s extended hours or sidewalk cafe permits for up to 30 days. However, noise violations could not be used as a grounds for revocation of the permit.
These stiffer penalties seek to address establishments that routinely violate the noise ordinance and currently view the less strict penalties as a “cost of doing business,” according to the city’s report. Most noise violations occur after the established “quiet hours” of 11 p.m. weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. For establishments to serve alcohol after midnight, they are required to obtain an extended hours permit.
The changes will move to City Council for first and second readings in May.