By Rich Pollack
Responding to concerns of residents living near the Intracoastal Waterway and the beach, Delray Beach city commissioners have once again put off approval of any changes to the city’s controversial noise ordinance until representatives of all sides of the issue can have their say.
After being presented with a compromise amended noise ordinance hammered out over several weeks by the city legal staff with input from area restaurant owners, the commission voted 4-1 in February to table the issue until a later meeting.
Commissioners are hoping that meetings involving everyone concerned — residents, restaurant owners and city officials — will lead to yet another version of the ordinance that all can live with.
“We have a lot of smart people in Delray Beach,” Commissioner Christina Morrison said following the meeting. “If we all get in the same room together, I’m sure we can come up with a solution. Everybody may not be thrilled, but it will be fair.”
Under the amended ordinance proposal presented to the commission last month, noise restrictions in the downtown area would be in effect between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. on weekends. Noise from musical instruments, stereos and other devices that were “plainly audible” more than 100 feet from a businesses property line would be considered in violation.
The amended ordinance dramatically reduced fines for violations from earlier versions, with fines for civil citations issued by police officers ranging from $250 for first offenses to $500 for repeat offenses. The proposed ordinance still left the door open for the city’s code enforcement board to issue fines of up to $5,000 for offenders who have excessive repeat violations within a calendar year.
“I think the proposal before the commission is fair and reasonable,” said Burt Rapoport, owner of Deck 84 and a spokesman for a group of restaurant and bar owners who formed the Downtown Hospitality Group in response to an earlier version of the ordinance.
In speaking before the commission last month, several residents living near restaurants that offer live music complained about not being informed of the changes and not being involved in discussions. Others expressed concerns about the enforceability of a revamped ordinance.
“It appears the residents and citizens haven’t been considered in this ordinance,” said Genie DePonte, who owns a home in the city’s Marina Historic District near Deck 84. “We need more time to have community meetings.”
Calling the revamped ordinance “wishy-washy,” Andy Katz, representing the Beach Property Owners Association, told commissioners the definition of a violation under the proposed changes leaves too much up to interpretation.
“We need to make sure we have enforceable limits on noise,” he said. “Please consider having something that is going to be easier for our police officers to enforce.”
Rapoport, speaking after the meeting, said he is fine with the commission’s decision to delay a vote on the amended ordinance.
“I think its only fair for everyone who wants to have input to be able to do so,” he said. “I know if the tables were reversed, I would want to have my opportunity.”
After listening to comments from residents the City Commission agreed — with Commissioner Adam Frankel dissenting — that additional meetings were needed before a final noise ordinance could be approved. In the interim, enforcement of the city’s current noise ordinance remains suspended.
“I think we have to go back to the drawing board,” Mayor Tom Carney said. Ú