St. Pete to arm officers with noise meters

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As the city council in St. Petersburg weighs a noise ordinance, businesses there say the crack-down on sound will cut down on customers.

The city says it has come up with what they hope is a compromise to satisfy homeowners who can't sleep while allowing nightlife and business to march on.

On Tuesday night, the city pitched its ideas, which takes some of the burden off of police officers' ears.

Currently, police have to determine whether an event or situation is too noisy. 

The city's new proposal would require responding officers to use a sound meter to determine if the ordinance is being broken. The acceptable decibel level will vary based on the time of day and the source of the noise.

"It is not one person who has better hearing. 'Hey, that sounds loud to me,'" explained Mayor Rick Kriseman, "and another saying, 'No, that sounds fine to me.'"

The city explained its plan to a mix of about 80 residents and business owners Tuesday night, a plan that includes later hours for louder noise on weekends, different limits for different types of noise, and also escalating punishments that range from warnings to fines to being banned from throwing parties.

"We want to support the businesses downtown," said Judy Miller, who lives downtown. "We don't need to be 2 a.m. not able to sleep."

While the number of complaints has dropped from about 3,800 in 2013 to 2,500 in 2017, the area where complaints are made is getting larger.

Near the Trop, the owner of Ferg's says residents have called the cops on his pre and post-game parties three times in the last year.

"There is going to be noise in any big city," said owner Mark Ferguson. "We have to get along with everybody and we have to be good neighbors. If we are too loud, please come in, tell us to turn it down, we turn it down."

The price tag to initiate the plan could be over $150,000, with $175,000 yearly costs on top of that.

The issue still has to be taken up at a committee meeting, then discussed by the full council in a few months.