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St. Pete City Council to decide on increased fines for noisy downtown businesses

The proposed changes would require noise mitigation and monitoring plans for new businesses.

St. Pete City Council will consider revisions to its noise ordinance next week that would implement stronger penalties for violators and require certain businesses to establish mitigation plans before opening.

Council will vote on the proposed changes May 2. A final vote is scheduled for May 16.

The changes include adding a formal warning process, increased fines and, for repeat offenders, the potential to suspend or revoke a business’s extended ours or sidewalk cafe permits.

The amendments address three chapters in City Code that pertain to alcoholic beverages, noise pollution and land development.

The proposed changes would require noise mitigation and monitoring plans for new businesses operating in an outdoor area with amplified sound after 11 p.m. on weekdays and after midnight on weekends.

It would apply to amplified noise at any business located within 1,000 feet of a residential unit or mixed-use building.

The proposed changes come after years of back and forth considerations to balance the needs of businesses operating in St. Pete’s booming downtown entertainment district with those of nearby neighbors who complain about excess noise.

Violators would be fined $500 per violation within a 12-month period. Those fines are up from a previous proposal that would have levied a first-time offense fine of $350. The St. Petersburg Chief of Police could order sidewalk cafe permits suspended for offenders who exceeded noise levels more than twice in a two year period.

The Chief of Police could revoke permits for one year for businesses who have their permits suspended twice in any one-year period. Such a revocation would be valid for one year. The business owner must also demonstrate meaningful action to correct the violations that led to the permit revocation in order to receive a new permit after the revocation period.

Under the proposal, businesses cannot have amplified sound from a sidewalk cafe that is plainly audible from the location of its speakers further than 200 feet between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. and not further than 50 feet from 11 p.m. until 8 a.m.

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The changes would take effect June first.

The proposed changes and existing noise ordinance would also extend to noise coming from boats operating or moored in city waters.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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