HOLMES BEACH – Commissioner Kim Rash wants city leaders to follow the letter of the law, particularly where it involves the enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance.
Rash brought up noise in residential areas during the April 23 regular meeting. He said that the noise from vacation rentals in residential areas remains a large problem for residents. With some rentals being occupied for less than the required seven days and other over posted capacity, Rash said he wants to make sure that no one is exempted from the city’s noise ordinance, including children. His argument is that the noise ordinance governing the levels of acceptable noise during day and nighttime hours does not single out an age group to apply to, so it should be applied to everyone equally.
“I don’t see anything where any age group is exempted from our code. We have the decimal reader and that covers everybody,” he said. “I’ve heard different people say we’re not going to give kids citations even though they’re breaking our code. My thing is noise is noise and it doesn’t matter if you’re one or 91.”
Mayor Judy Titsworth didn’t agree with Rash’s idea.
“Do you want us to cite children playing in pools?” she asked Rash.
“If people are violating our noise ordinance, they need to be cited,” Rash replied.
Titsworth said the city’s residential neighborhoods are not 55 plus communities and are open to families. She added that she hopes to attract more families to the area rather than deter them through police presence.
“Once we start citing children in pools people will leave and never come back,” she said. Rather than giving a citation to children or their families for loud horseplay outside during the day, Titsworth said she prefers to have code enforcement officers visit the property who greet the family in a friendly manner, bring gifts for the children and gently remind visitors that they’re vacationing in a residential neighborhood.
Rash replied that while he loves children, visitors to the city and the rental agents who manage properties need to follow the rules, including the noise ordinance. Rather than discourage families from coming to the Island, he said his hope is to create balance between visitors and residents so that everyone can enjoy the residential neighborhoods. He added that he would like to see occupancy enforced during the day time, rather than just for overnight visitors, to prevent backyard parties at rental properties during the day.
Police Chief Bill Tokajer said that while overnight occupancy limits can’t be enforced during the day, his department is ready to respond to noise complaints, including those generated by a large group of people gathering at one property.
City Attorney Patricia Petruff said that she doesn’t know how occupancy can be enforced during the day because property owners and renters are allowed to have guests visit the property as long as they don’t exceed maximum occupancy of two people per bedroom or six people maximum, whichever is greater, at night.
In a letter to city leaders, resident Renee Ferguson followed up on Rash’s comments, saying that with the high price of property on Anna Maria Island, she feels that young families have been largely priced out of living in the area, leaving the population primarily a mix of visitors and retirees, in her estimation.
“No one that bought here to live full time signed on to be responsible for making sure our visitors are entertained and have a good time. I sure never agreed to that when I built my home,” Ferguson’s letter states.
“Our chief states clearly in a newspaper letter (Feb 26th) that day time noise is “normal conversation.” Screaming kids in a pool is not normal conversation. If this is occurring, then the renter should be cited. Our police and code enforcement have the tools they need to enforce.
“Residents have asked to make clearer to management companies what our ordinances state,” the letter continues. “The clingers, (small instruction signs) showing kids playing in the pool, states a message of being “respectful.” That message alone could mean something different to each reader. We need something clearer. Normal conversation is acceptable, screaming is not.
“If we just follow our own codes, the residents and visitors could enjoy the best the Island has to offer. Beautiful sunsets, clean beaches and fun times,” she wrote.
While no resolution was achieved with regard to daytime noise, Titsworth did say that the city’s noise ordinance will soon come before commissioners to consider changes to the fine structure.