Islamorada village officials are eyeing potential changes to a noise ordinance in an effort to bring quiet enjoyment of life during certain days and times throughout the year.
Council members say they would like a carveout to allow homeowners to conduct lawn maintenance or construction from 8 a.m. to sundown during weekends and holidays. But the dais acknowledged that they would like construction and landscaping companies to begin their work throughout the year beginning at 8 a.m.
In July, council discussed issues of noise and asked village staff to review its ordinance on the subject. As part of the discussion, council delved into several facets that included negative impacts on quality of life in neighborhoods, the existing ordinances and possibly adjusting hours and days of week that certain types of noises are allowable. Discussion included what activities should be better regulated, with focus on construction and lawn maintenance. Council acknowledged that they wanted to avoid infringing on property owner’s rights.
Construction within the village is currently allowed at 7:30 a.m., and lawn maintenance can begin at 7 a.m. Noise violations are determined based on whether a person can hear noise 50 feet away.
“I always like to bring up the mission of our government, and that’s to protect the residents’ quiet enjoyment of life, right at the top,” Village Manager Greg Oravec said. “The council suggested there’s an opportunity to do better. We took a look at it. This is the essence of home rule. Cities have the right to create local regulations that best serve local needs and circumstances.”
Staff examined noise ordinances from Key West, Jupiter Island, Marathon, Monroe County, Boca Raton, Key Colony Beach and Ocean Reef. Oravec said there are commonalities among ordinances, including time and certain days when sound-producing activities like construction and lawn maintenance can go on. Oravec said some have bans on certain equipment and activities, including leaf blowers and gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment.
“These places are usually more on the restrictive side of the policy spectrum, and they’re places like Ocean Reef, Palm Beach and Jupiter Island,” Oravec said.
Construction activities aren’t permitted on Sundays or holidays in Ocean Reef. Lawn maintenance isn’t allowed on Sundays throughout the year. On Saturdays, lawn maintenance isn’t allowed during the busy months around October to April. Trimmers may only be electric, and gas powered hedgers can be used once a year for hard cutting.
David Webb brought forth discussion over noise-producing activities within the village in July. He said he’d like to see no construction or lawn maintenance activities on Sunday and holidays. He also wants to see the same start times for the two activities and an earlier work stoppage time of 5 p.m. Webb said the change would be an immediate enhancement for quality of life in Islamorada.
“I think the end time cannot be sundown,” he said. “That’s 8:30 at night in the summertime with daylight savings time. At 8:30 at night you don’t want to be listening to a jack hammer.”
Mayor Buddy Pinder said he’d like to see a public workshop to hear from more residents on potential changes.
“I am for the mission statement for the right to quiet enjoyment, but I think we need to hear a little bit from the public,” he said. “We’re not making a decision right here right now.”
Vice Mayor Pete Bacheler said he’s just as fed up as Webb with the noise. He agreed with Webb’s points.
“I’m tired of the noise. I’m tired of the aggravation. We just don’t need to have it,” he said.
Councilman Mark Gregg said the village should hear from construction firms, landscapers and the entertainment community.
“We just have to find a fair balance between the needs of the contractor to do the work efficiently, because that affects us too. They have to do something that’s twice as expensive because it’s quiet, we should take that into consideration,” he said.
Oravec and staff will come back with recommendations for the council to hash out. Islamorada Council will gather for a meeting on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at Founders Park Community Center.