Tampa City Council passes new noise ordinance, but legal precedent indicates it may be unconstitutional | Tampa Bay News | Tampa

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LC staff

A crowd watches an outdoor concert at The Bricks in Ybor.

After outcry from Ybor City residents and business owners over the new noise ordinance amendments, several people showed up at yesterday’s city council meeting to oppose the changes.

Despite community outcry and a lawyer pointing out the “unconstitutional” aspects of the amendments, the city council passed the controversial 5-1 ordinance. Only Guido Maniscalco voted no; Luis Viera was absent.

The changes will not take effect for six months. In the meantime, the council has called on city staff to take up the most controversial aspects of the new rules and discuss them at a workshop on April 28.

If no changes are made before implementation, the order could ban all amplified sound in Ybor after midnight and allow police to fine businesses without warning if they have outdoor music at certain times. decibel levels. It also limits decibel levels to talk volume between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., which is often prime time in Ybor.

Luke Lirot, a local lawyer who has several clients in Ybor, called the order “unconstitutional”, particularly the First Amendment, which includes the right to free speech and the right to assembly.

“I believe this is the fifth decade that I have been able to speak to the Tampa City Council about First Amendment issues,” Lirot told the council during the meeting. “And I want to emphasize that this is exactly what it is for my customers and the commercial operators of Ybor City.”

Lirot explained that music is what his clients at Ybor present as a form of expression and communication, and is therefore protected by the First Amendment. Any attempt to silence this form of expression, as the order seeks, would violate the constitution for this reason, Lirot said.

“It’s completely unconstitutional as it stands,” Lirot told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Today. “But I think the city can be more surgical in how that ordinance exists, and I look forward to working with them on that.”

Lirot sent CL a list of Florida Supreme Court (FSC) cases that have ruled against local noise ordinances because of their unconstitutionality. He said he also sent it to town.

In Sarasota in 2012, the Florida Supreme Court ruled against a city noise ordinance that sought to ban drivers from playing loud music in their cars, calling it “unconstitutional”.

Also in 2012, the FSC struck down a state law that regulated music played at high volumes by cars because it violated the First Amendment.

In 1996, a noise ordinance in Lee County was canceled by the FSC for the same reason.

Lirot said he understood there had to be a balance, but the ordinance was not the way to achieve the goal of noise regulation, saying the entire original ordinance was flawed .

With 10 seconds remaining in his speech to the council, Lirot said: ‘I will just say ‘Let’s all get together and sort this out before something is passed that will only bring headaches and litigation. “”

The city has yet to respond to questions about Lirot’s claims. This message will be updated if a reply arrives.

During the presentation of the ordinance, Carole Post, the city’s administrator of economic development and opportunity, said the city was aware of the “debate and discussion” leading up to the meeting.

“The council actually started this almost two years ago to update what we think is a tangle of rules and regulations that have become confusing, and which, if they don’t really keep pace with the needs of our evolving city,” Post said. “The goal the council set itself was to simplify and provide consistency and predictability for all businesses and residents, but we recognize this is a sensitive issue.”

Ybor business owners spoke about how the ordinance’s rules would destroy the culture they helped build there.

Belle Amoroso, owner of the Las Vegas Tattoo company for 20 years with her husband. They moved to Ybor from Las Vegas specifically for its nightlife.

“We love it and tourists love coming here,” Amoroso said. “If you start altering that, you’re going to end up with something quite pathetic actually.”

While most business owners were focused on their bottom line, Eric Schiller, owner of Gaspar’s Grotto with his wife of 18 years, explained how Tampa taxpayers could be affected by such an order.

“If this [outdoor sound] is reduced, it will have a disastrous effect on our tourism, our hospitality on hotel room nights on our convention business in particular,” he said.

Contrary to the high turnout against the ordinance, a couple from Tampeños spoke out in favor of the new rules that will affect Ybor, saying noise disrupts their lives there, and several others complained of separate noise issues in the south. from Tampa. But specifically in reference to Ybor, Lirot pointed out that anyone who has come to Ybor (known for its nightlife for over 40 years) and now complains, is participating in “come to nuisance”.

Under tort law, if the problem complained of occurred before the plaintiffs who own homes or live in the area affected by the nuisance (noise), and if the owners were aware of the activity creating a nuisance at the time they purchased the property, the defendant may plead the defense of coming to the nuisance.

Several business owners and residents pointed out that people shouldn’t have moved into a party district just to complain, inadvertently referring to the law.

Tom DeGeorge, spokesperson for the Ybor Merchants Association and owner of Crowbar, which he opened in 2006, says he was particularly shocked by Tampa Police Department Officer Brett Owen who pushed to remove the loud noise warning because business owners tried to work with the TPD to resolve the issues the low.

He also said that while this ordinance being passed was discouraging, those who have helped make Ybor what it is over the years do not back down easily.
“I’m not happy with the way the city is treating small businesses here as adversaries, we should work together to find a solution,” DeGeorge said. “We’re going to fight the order, because it’s flawed in the first place.”

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