County commissioners pass clarified noise ordinance

Gulf County commissioners unanimously passed a new noise ordinance on Jan. 25 that lays out stronger penalties for violation and sets clearer parameters for what is considered too loud.

The new ordinance, which will replace the county’s existing one, was the product of discussions between Jeremy Novak, the county’s attorney, county staff and law enforcement.

“Commissioners, if you recall, several months ago, you had instructed the staff and myself to begin working on amending the ordinance,” Novak said. “We did that. This is more comprehensive and an update after 23 years of our current noise ordinance.”

Among the most notable changes, Sheriff Mike Harrison said, is an expanded time frame in which charges can be made for unnecessary and excessive noise.

“What we have had for the longest time is a noise ordinance that isn’t really clear and didn’t give a lot of teeth,” he said.

“Before, it basically just set the hours of between 12 a.m. and 7 a.m., and it just said ‘plainly audible at 100 feet.’ So if someone was making unnecessary noise, playing their music extremely loud at 10, 11 o’clock at night, we didn’t have the mechanism to be able to charge them under the existing county ordinance.”

The new ordinance removes the previous ordinance’s time frame, stating that excessive noise that is not associated with construction, events or necessary activities and is plainly audible at 100 feet is subject to penalty at any time of day.

Further, it expands the time frame in which construction noises are not allowed.

In the county meeting, Novak said that the new ordinance would prohibit loud construction after 9 p.m., the latest possible sunset time of the year.

The new ordinance specifically outlines the penalties for violating the noise laws, which include a $250 fine for a first offense, a $500 fine for a second offense and a $500 fine plus the possibility of jail time not to exceed 60 days for a third offense.

It also limits deputies to issuing a maximum of one written warning for noise violations to any one individual.

But while the sheriff said he is pleased with the new ordinance’s improved clarity, he noted that the new legislation would not take effect over the whole county, but just in the county’s unincorporated areas.

“A county ordinance can’t be enforced inside the city,” he said. 

In the future, the sheriff said he would like to see the county’s cities adopt similar legislation, particularly in Wewahitchka, where county law and code enforcement is contracted. 

“It would just kind of give us one set of rules to run with for both the county and the city,” he said.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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