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Live, “Loud” Music Again Riles Flagler Beach Residents, Who Demand a Rule Rewrite

| October 11, 2012

Hurricane Patty’s owner worked with the Flagler Beach City Commission on compliance with a noise ordinance almost two years ago, only to see the same ordinance head for a possible re-write. That has several restaurant and bar owners concerned. (© FlaglerLive)

As it does with metronomic regularity, Flagler Beach’s noise ordinance is raising a ruckus again as a few residents living near restaurants complain about hours of loud, live music. The Flagler Beach City Commission is listening to the complaints—and scheduling a workshop on Nov. 1 to consider rewriting that ordinance.

The latest edition of the noise ordinance controversy was triggered by a request on Thursday evening’s commission agenda to rethink the scope of the ordinance and “drastically” reduce allowable sound levels from outdoor entertainment. The request packed the chamber at city hall for the commission’s bi-monthly meeting with residents, businesses and their supporters. But commissioners were clearly in no mood to “reinvent the wheel,” as Commission Chairman Jane Mealy put it, then and there, preferring instead to deal with the issue somewhat the way it did at the beginning of 2011, when Hurricane Patty’s was the eye of that storm and a town hall meeting finally diffused the matter.

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This time, attention is focusing on Johnny D’s on State Road A1A.

Susan Corson lives on North Central Avenue. She’s lived there 11 years. For most of those years, all was fine. The restaurant about 150 feet away from her property played music a couple of nights a week, but it was not an issue. Then the restaurant became Johnny D’s, the new owner, John Davis, secured an outdoor entertainment permit. Music became a nightly event, and from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays. “So the people who live near Johnny D’s are listening to about 45 hours a week of outdoor music,” Corson said.

She came prepared. She played a boom box to illustrate what music at 70 decibels sounds like (70 decibels is the limit for live music, though it need only sound like 60 decibels from a complainant’s perspective, anywhere past the property line of the business in question). And she said that she’d considered moving. Her house was appraised at an excellent value. But then her realtor had bad news, as she heard it: “You’re right behind a known, loud bar.” Selling the house would be difficult.

To Corson, that’s a violation of her property rights. She does not dispute the rights of the owner of Johnny D’s to host music nights every night. She is not contending that he is in violation of the city’s noise ordinance. But she is asking the city to change the ordinance, and she’s making three requests: to place a moratorium on handing out outdoor entertainment permits; to reduce the allowable decibel levels in the noise ordinance; and to restrict or eliminate the allowance for amplified music equipment.

John Davis, Johnny D’s owner, had anticipated the complaints and spoken first, not so much angrily as with unveiled irritation. “I am very concerned about the harassment I’m getting from some people about the outdoor entertainment,” he said. Since he opened in February, he’s had just one warning over the noise. No violations. Aside from the nearly $4,000 in sales taxes he’s contributed in nine months, he said, “we have provided 20 jobs for Flagler County people”—a number that drew applause in the room–“we employ 10 and sometimes 12 entertainers, Flagler County people.”


Davis said he’d invested $400,000 in the property, based on its potential as an entertainment venue, and that he was investing an additional $50,000 to $75,000 for a deck, to expand, and adding a wall for more sound-proofing. “I’ve been told with fingers pointed in my face that people are going to come up here and change this ordinance. Well, that’s not going to make me sleep very well,” Davis said. “I am very concerned that people can come up here and have you all try to consider changing an ordinance that will devastate me financially, devastate the jobs that I am providing. It’s very concerning.” He added: “Why do we have to keep rehashing this?”

That was the point the owner of Hurricane Patty made to the commission, after reminding them of the work she did—with commissioners and city staff—almost two years ago when her restaurant had been under the gun. “I knew that I could do business within that ordinance. And now we’re talking about changing it,” she said.

The business owners had support from the likes of Rusty Place, a frequent voice at commission meetings, who said: “If you don’t want to hear music, don’t buy a house behind a commercial building.” He declared himself “amazed” that residents would complain about businesses doing what businesses do. “We need the businesses, we need the tax revenue, we need all that stuff.”

But commissioners sensed that the crowd in front of them was not the malleable kind, at least not tonight. People wanted to speak their mind more than hear each other out. Commissioner Steve Settle urged the business community “not to challenge” Flagler Beach residents, who could turn out in droves. He told the businesses that they should not give the impression that they were not willing to work with residents. Another commissioner spoke for her colleagues when she urged them to shift the debate to another day. “I don’t feel like listening to 80 different people talking about this ordinance,” Kim Carney said. “I understand everyone has a right to speak, but I think this needs to go to workshop.”

Carney also asked that the workshop be driven by data—data about actual numbers of complaints, data about decibel levels, data about what cops may and may not do, and how businesses can be protected from anonymous people out to harass them, whether they have justifiable reasons to or not.

Earlier in the meeting, ironically, the commission unanimously renewed the outdoor entertainment permits for three Flagler Beach businesses: Hurricane Patty’s, Finn’s and the Golden Lion.

The workshop on the noise ordinance is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m.

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24 Responses for “Live, “Loud” Music Again Riles Flagler Beach Residents, Who Demand a Rule Rewrite”

  1. GB says:

    Listen, I used to live in Palm Coast in the Z section. I got sick and tired of hearing the airplane noise from the airport there….so I sold my house, and moved to Flagler Beach, partly BECAUSE of the live music scene here. It’s a beach town, a tourist town, and if you live next to commercial property….oh well. Come out and have drink and shut up….or move like I did…..I did not attend counsel meetings demanding the airport be shut down….same ridiculous concept here.

       6 likes

  2. Deep South says:

    The problem is zoning. The city was zoned poorly. Never should have allowed residential and commercial to be built so closely and right next to each other. Very poor planning, and inexperience city council to allow this to happen. You got what you allow your council people to allow.

       4 likes

  3. LRM says:

    Speaking of rewriting or tweaking some Flagler Beach ordinances. Parking ordinances should be looked over. Does any one else have a problem with neighbors using their ENTIRE front lawn as a parking lot. Our past neighbors parked up to 7 vehicles including a SUV, Jimmy, Cadillac, Corvette and Camaro, 2 bikes, 2 trailors and a golf cart AND a boat all in the front of the house. They moved out last week and before we could celebrate, tentants moved in with 2 or 3 trucks, trailers and are parking the same way. Talk about a loss in value of our well kept yard!!

       2 likes

  4. Michael says:

    It’s only ruthless, tactless and mannerless folks who see nothing wrong with disturbing the peace with loud music. Night clubs/dive bars that blast this garbage “music” at stratospheric levels close to civilized areas need to be taken down, along with all of the drunken insubordinates who patronize these places. Go open your sleazy watering holes elsewhere. Keep away from where civilized people reside.

       0 likes

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