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Gainesville's noise ordinance debate continues to bring tension between Gainesville city officials and neighbors

Gainesville City Commission discusses noise ordinance (City of Gainesville)
Gainesville City Commission discusses noise ordinance (City of Gainesville)

Gainesville city commissioners unanimously decided Thursday against hiring a consultant to look over its noise ordinance.

Gainesville Police Lt. Lisa Scott has said in the city, “the No. 1 complaint will be noise.”

The complaints over the sound of loud cars and concerts in the downtown area remain.

Gainesville has a sound ordinance with quiet hours between 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., meaning people are not permitted to disrupt the peace of any reasonable person during this time.

In April, GPD received 360 noise complaints. An officer was dispatched to 253.

Anthony Ackrill, a Gainesville artist, lives in the downtown area. He said he can hear his windows rattling in his house from noise five blocks away with his windows shut because of the loud car noises happening outside.

He said he can also hear outdoor concerts and large events that happen downtown from outside of his home.

“It seems unreasonable that seven, eight, nine blocks away, I am hearing actual lyrics of music played at an outdoor concert which is happening more and more often downtown,” he said.

Mayor Harvey Ward agrees noise is a problem in Gainesville.

“It is hard to have a conversation on University Avenue, and a number of other streets, without someone's extremely loud motorcycle making their own noise at a very loud level,” Ward said.

Commissioner Bryan Eastman said it’s a balancing act between people enjoying downtown and people enjoying a quiet home.

“Music really makes downtown the entertainment center of the city, but at the same time, people need to feel comfortable in their homes and be able to sleep at night,” Eastman said.

The city’s noise ordinance has a 200-footmeasuring point, meaning any sound or noise produced by any source that can be clearly heard by a person using their normal hearing faculties at a distance of 200 feet or more from the property line of the source of the sound or noise.

While Daniel M. Nee, Gainesville's city attorney, said the city’s noise ordinances have been challenged in the past, it isn’t an easy rule for police enforcement to measure.

The current ordinance is measured using decibels, but Commissioner Chestnut believes it needs to be reviewed because of the ongoing noise issues. The idea behind the proposal was to contract with a sound lab or audiologist to figure out if the ordinance’s standards are still intact.

Gainesville Police Chief Lonnie Scott raised questions that he said he believes need to be looked at, such as “Are we using the right metrics as far as distance and decibels?” and

However, these questions and problems may not be answered due to the city’s budget.

“In a year where our budget is tight, there’s less available money,” Commissioner Casey Willits said. “Unless we have a special resource or grant.”

The city commission will bring back options about the city’s noise ordinance at the Jan. 25 meeting.