Commissioners toughen county's noise ordinance


Published: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 7:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 7:21 p.m.

People who violate Alachua County’s noise ordinance soon could be issued a notice to appear in court immediately without getting a warning first, thanks to an amendment the Alachua County Commission unanimously approved Tuesday.

During its evening meeting, the County Commission voted to amend the noise ordinance at the request of Sheriff Sadie Darnell to allow deputies to use their discretion and cite violators without warning if necessary.

Apparently deputies have been frustrated by revisiting the same site for noise complaints over and over again only to be able to issue a warning.

The most recent problem involves the Southwest 13th Street and Williston Road corridor, where people end up parking either along the road or at local businesses and playing loud stereos late into the night, police said. On weekends, hundreds of cars gather between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.

Deputies say they have warned some of the same people week after week.

Before the County Commission approved amending the noise ordinance Tuesday, law enforcement was required to issue a warning first before taking further action. Violators were aware of that, which resulted in a no-risk situation for them, police said.

The amendment to the noise ordinance gets rid of the requirement that a warning be given before issuing a notice to appear in court or making an arrest.

A few residents who live near the All Star Sports Bar on Southwest 13th Street came near the intersection of Williston Road to the podium Tuesday evening and told commissioners it has been a nightmare dealing with the late-night noise coming from that area.

One man said he thought giving deputies teeth in the ordinance so they can have some discretion is critical.

“I’ve spent countless sleepless hours on weekend nights due to the loud noise,” he said. Authorities “seem overwhelmed by the problem, and they need something to help them to enforce the noise ordinance.”

Darnell told The Sun that the All Star Sports Bar is the magnet that attracts people to that area. Then they’ll gravitate to the parking lots of nearby businesses.

“These neighbors have suffered so much,” she said of the residents affected by the late-night noise.

Lt. Steve Maynard said this kind of situation has been a problem on Lake Santa Fe, too. People will gather on Lake Santa Fe on boats and make a lot of noise, which carries across the water and bothers lakeside residents.

The Sheriff’s Office even had a situation where a deputy responded to a noise complaint and tried to wave a boater down from the shore.

“The boater says, ‘If you would like to speak with me, come to me,’ ” Maynard said.

So the Sheriff’s Office did, sending law enforcement out to meet the man on the water and inform him about the noise problem, Maynard said.

“I think he was rather shocked that we took him up on his offer,” Maynard said.

Now that the commission has approved amending the noise ordinance, the plan is to conduct a 30-day education campaign for both deputies and the public on the new rules, Maynard said. Midway through the upcoming football season, Maynard said he expects the word will have gotten out that noise offenders could face consequences that go beyond a warning for being too loud.

“Do I naively think that the problem’s going to go away? No,” he said.

However, Maynard does expect it will significantly improve the situation since people will know deputies can immediately issue a notice to appear or, in extreme cases, make an arrest without a warning if they deem that course of action necessary.

It won’t be a no-risk situation for offenders anymore, he said.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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