Once a sleepy town known as “God’s waiting room,” St. Pete is facing growing pains. With concerns ranging from density and affordability, to infrastructure and traffic, one issue has remained top of mind for downtown residents – noise.
After years of negotiation between residents, local businesses and city staff, on May 16 St. Petersburg City Council voted unanimously to amend the City’s noise ordinance to increase the enforceability of the city’s noise ordinance, and stiffen penalties for offending businesses.
Most of the new requirements apply to sidewalk cafes, restaurants and bars both indoor and outdoor, as well as other “privately owned non-residential outdoor places” that have been at the center of the city’s noise complaints. The amendments were supported by the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, which in recent years fought against proposed amendments that would have changed the standards of the noise ordinance from “plainly audible at distance” to a prescribed decibel level. The amended ordinance, which keeps the “plainly audible at distance” language, took effect Saturday, June 1.
Here’s what St. Pete businesses need to know about the new rules:
Newly established businesses: One major departure from past policy requires newly established businesses to create noise mitigation and monitoring plans. Any business established after June 1, 2019 must create a plan at minimum includes the hours of operation, number and orientation of the outdoor speakers, location of stages (if applicable) and noice mitigation and monitoring methods. In fact, the ordinance is applicable to any outdoor sound system that is “installed, expanded, or modified” after June 1, within 1,000 feet of a hotel or residential use, including mixed use.
Progressive penalty system: The most substantive changes would create stiffer penalties for violators of existing code by establishing a progressive penalty system. An establishment’s first violation 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 impose a suspension 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.
Sidewalk cafes: Any business with a sidewalk cafe must mount their speakers overhead and orient the speaker at a downward 45 degree (or less) angle. Speakers must be included in the approved sidewalk cafe permit plan. The ordinance also establishes that plainly audible noise should not exceed 200 feet during normal business hours (8 a.m.-11 p.m.) and 50 feet during extended business hours (11 p.m.-8 a.m.).
Not otherwise regulated sounds regulated by the ordinance: Other businesses and individuals not otherwise regulated by the aforementioned rules are subject to sound distance guidelines based on their zoning district and the time of day. Permitted noise ranges from 500 feet to 50 feet during quiet hours in residential zoning categories, and 500 feet to 200 feet in nonresidential zoning categories. (See chart for details.)