City moves forward with noise ordinance

Tallahassee’s City Hall Photo courtesy, Tallahassee Democrat

In a 4-1 vote, Tallahassee city commissioners approved a revised noise ordinance during Wednesday’s meeting. The next step is a public hearing.

This decision would allow the Tallahassee Police Department to be the complainant in noise disturbances, allowing officers to intervene.

The revised noise ordinance would also reduce the number of complaints being received from an area where a party is in place.

TPD Deputy Chief Maurice Holmes believes the current noise ordinance is unenforceable. It requires officers to use decibel meters and more resources than needed.

The city created a task force in October 2020 called the Crowd Control Task Force to help control parking lot parties.

So far, the task force has issued 181 felony charges along with 2,974 traffic stops.

TPD introduced the ordinance to stop “pop-up” parties in parking lots that rose after the closing down of bars and clubs during the pandemic.

The revised ordinance would not allow any noise causing a disturbance between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.

The existing ordinance allows for noise under a certain decibel level during that period.

Businesses and hotels in the area near Gaines Street and the Railroad Square Arts District have complained about the noise coming from pop-up parties near their businesses.

The general manager of the Residence Inn at the corner of Gaines and Macomb streets, Keith Hoogerheyde, said the “pop-up” parties had affected his business.

“Thousands of travelers have now left Tallahassee with negative experiences, including distinguished guests … The current state [of the noise disturbances] is not creating the environment that allows us to expand the diversity of the lived component that is throttling the 18-hour concept that we have worked very hard to try to achieve in the downtown area,” Hoogerheyde said.

The Residence Inn is down the street from a bar. During the pandemic, crowds would gather outside of the bars and clubs, often in parking lots, to loiter, causing the noise.

Police say that most parking lot pop-up parties increased the amount of violent crime in those areas.

“It is also a tool that we can use to address our violent crime issues at these locations. We know that in these gatherings, there’s the use of alcohol and a lot of drug activity and those are ingredients for disaster,” Deputy Chief Holmes said.

A few representatives of other neighborhoods also complained about the noise coming from the urban core area.

The urban core includes areas from the Railroad Square district to parts of Monroe and West Tennessee streets.

Although these neighborhoods were a little further in the distance, residents could still hear the noise from outside of the urban core area.

Piers Rawling, president of the Myers Park Neighborhood Association, spoke about the noises heard in his community.

“Some of the urban core bars and clubs and the vehicles that frequent the urban core can emit deafening amounts of noise, particularly with their bass speakers,” Rawling said.

Commissioner Jack Porter cast the lone vote against both options of the ordinance. Porter said she has concerns about the effects of the urban core areas on surrounding residential areas.
The Tallahassee City Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the ordinance on March 9.