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New Bradenton Noise Ordinance Causing Frustration

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BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) -- Bradenton City Council members approved a new version of the noise ordinance. Non-residential districts can now be louder later, but not everyone is pleased with the new rules.

For months the new draft of the ordinance has been at the center of a heated debate in Bradenton. But with the decision done, we're now hearing reaction from the people most vested in the issue.

"It was a really good compromise," said Annie Russini, executive director of the Village of the Arts. She was among residents pushing to limit the decibel level and the cut-off time for loud noise. The argument focused primarily around Motorworks Brewing.

"It's kind of heartbreaking," said Barry Elwonger, director of sales and marketing for Motorworks.

The new noise ordinance is drastically different from initial, business-friendly, proposals.

Prior to the change, music as loud as 75 decibels was allowed until 10 p.m.

For months, raising the level to 80 dB was part of the discussion.

Finally, after residents showed stiff resistance, council members settled on keeping the dB limit at 75 in non-residential districts from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday. The cut-off time extends until midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Holidays. Residential areas have a cut-off time of 7 p.m.

One major change in the ordinance, moves the point from which that level is measured. Instead of being done from the property line of the business, it will now be done from the point of the complaint.

Council members say it's an attempt to balance the needs of neighbors and businesses.

"Nothing's ever perfect when you first do it. This was a good starting point," said councilman Gene Brown in a written statement.

Motorworks Brewing says it's far from perfect. The Bradenton brewery has become the poster child for the argument to allow live music louder and later.

"It has been quite the battle, " said Elwonger. "It's not like we're out here doing big monstrous shows like you'd see at a music festival out at Bonnaroo or Coachella. Most of it is just relaxing music in the beer garden."

Elwonger says the new policy will have little impact, dubbing it a business killer and arguing the cap on late night noise stifles nightlife and slows revenues as customers head to St. Pete where live outdoor music is allowed until 2 a.m.

"I do feel like the city is definitely leaving a lot of opportunity on the table and I see a lot of businesses and nearby cities thriving because they are doing things that are much more friendly to businesses and getting people to go out and enjoy music and the arts and culture," said Elwonger.

Directly behind Motorworks is the Village of the Arts. Residents there say any louder and the music is sure to disrupt their way of life.

"There's going to be an issue not just for the Village of the Arts Neighborhood," said Russini. "But any place that someone puts up an outdoor music venue."

Russini has lived and worked in the village for nearly 20 years. She says for those living directly behind Motorworks, the process has been frustrating.

"There are issues that come up surrounding alcohol all the time, but this is specifically a sound issue for people who really do need to go to sleep and get up in the monring--as most people do," said Russini.

Her biggest concern is that the new law is enforced.

"This thing needs to have teeth or it's not going to make any difference," said Russini.

What does 75 dB really sound like? Is it a reasonable requirement? We went to sound engineer John Cohen for answers.

"Our conversation right now is probably between 60 and 70 decibels," said Cohen. "On the road, traffic is 90 dB--honking a horn, screaming down the road. But it's not the constant boom boom boom. It's not constant, it dissipates. It's not a band that's continually playing, so that can be very irritating."

Is it possible for a band like the ones that play at Motorworks to be under 75 dB?

"Realistically, a live rock band with drums, bass, maybe a guitar or two... you're well over 100 dB," said Cohen.

Realistic or not, Russini says it's important the city recognize despite it's 'mixed-use' status--the village of the arts is residential first and commercial second.

"We need protection for our homes because it's our homes first and foremost," said Russini. "There's no question when you go through the village of the arts that this is a residential community."

Motorworks says it chose this location based on the promise of the area becoming an arts and entertainment district, it's a promise it say the city never followed through with.

"They were going to try to make this a big area to try to drive that younger populous here and business and all that," said Elwonger. "But if you look at what's happened since then, pretty much since we opened and maybe on other spot, there really hasn't been anyone else opening for it. And then they're doing a lot of policies that are downright scaring business away."