Grayton Beach noise ordinance may go countywide
By DOTTY NIST
Walton County commissioners will be considering whether a simpler approach may work better when it comes to dealing with noise complaints.
In 2003, Walton County adopted Ordinance 2003-09, a noise ordinance applying to all of the area south of the bay with the exception of Grayton Beach.
Grayton was excluded because it already had a noise ordinance, which had been adopted in 1996, mainly to address complaints associated with musical entertainment in the small community.
The “south-of-the-bay” noise ordinance sets permissible sound-level limits, measured in decibels, and provides for enforcement of those levels by trained personnel equipped with sound level meters, in response to noise-related complaints from the public.
In contrast, the Grayton Beach’s low-tech noise ordinance sets a “plainly audible” standard for permissible sound level and does not rely on sound meters or trained technicians.
On March 24, Mike Burke, Walton County legal counsel, requested that the Walton County Board of County Commissioners consider applying a uniform noise ordinance countywide. The ordinance he suggested was the one in effect for Grayton Beach.
“All noise ordinances are difficult to enforce,” Burke stated. “Having two noise ordinances makes enforcement that much more challenging,” he continued.
“Based on comments our office has received from commissioners, staff, and the public at large, we recommend the board consider adopting the Grayton Beach ordinance on a countywide basis and repealing Ordinance 2003-09,” Burke added.
The south-of-the-bay noise ordinance has relied on enforcement by Walton County Sheriff’s Office deputies for nuisance complaints and on Walton County Code Enforcement officers for those related to industrial and commercial activities. Difficulties with the use of sound meters have included the effect of weather factors such as wind on the meters’ accuracy.
Since adoption of the south-of-the-bay noise ordinance, there has been discussion of extending it countywide. At one time there was talk of holding a referendum of voters north of the bay to determine whether this would occur.
County Commission Chair Sara Comander said she would be in favor of looking at applying a noise ordinance countywide. She said she often received noise complaints from residents in her district, referencing in particular agriculture-related complaints coming from the Villa Tasso area.
Attorney Burke provided the commissioners with copies of the Grayton Beach ordinance (four pages), and the south-of-the-bay ordinance (18 pages) and requested that they provide their comments once they had examined the two documents.
No hearings on the matter have currently been scheduled, but a series of public hearings would be required to consider repealing the south-of-the-bay ordinance and establishing the Grayton ordinance throughout the county.