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

  1. NortonSmitty says:

    Maybe we could do a prisoner exchange with Palm Coast. Three of our Whiny Complainers for three of your Park Perverts and a minor-league felon to be named later.

  2. Frances says:

    I understand that businesses have rights and have invested large amounts of money for their property, etc. However, homeowners also have rights and to listen to loud music for extended periods of time is not fair to the residents. We also have paid a lot for our property and invested in the community, sometimes for many many years. It seems that music should be kept inside the restaurants/bars or at the very least, limited to a certain number of nights and hours. You talk about property values going down. No one wants to be bombarded by music in their own homes. I hope the commissioners will listen to the people who elected them.

  3. glad fly says:

    they knew there were bars and bands playing loud music when they bought property there. it’s a beach town…i bet they don’t object to all the taxes these businesses pay to keep their streets paved and garbage sympathy here.

  4. DoubleGator says:

    Let the good times roll. Pitty us to have folks coming here and having fun. Maybe giving a reason to hire a few more folks. For the life of me I don’t see an abuse of what we reasonably consider a “night club” dristrict. My lord, throw me in the briar patch of successful businesses hiring folks and job creating.

  5. Steve Wood says:

    Quoting Rusty Place “Don’t buy a house near a business that plays outside music.” Well what about living in your house for 25 years with NO music and now you have the Burrito works rebuilding the old Mothers and planning on doing the same as Finns with outside music on the deck. Home owners should not have to put up with it, as we were pretty much here first. Looks to me like all the business owners have been watching the political ads and like to throw how great they are for making jobs. I will not put up with it and will be complaining at any time it is a bother as I have the right to do as a home owner.

    • Reality Check says:

      You do have every right, but just becuase you were there first means NOTHING!! You should have checked the property records to see what the vacant land or parcels could be used for. People buy a house and say oh it backs up to a reserve so no one can build there, that is not what reserve means. Reserve means it is reserved for something, a shool a park, maybe a shopping Mall, the word you want is a preserve, that way the land is not meant to be built on. You cannot blame the business owner, hell he spent 5X as much as you did for his properrty and has every right to make a profit. Blame the local goverment for having homes back up to businesses along that area.

      Frances: You buy a house near the airport you get planes flying overhead, when you buy a hose near a areas designated for business you take a chance. This would be no differant then a business who did mechanical work and you heard power tools all day, noise is noise, you should never buy a house near an area that backs up to a business. This is why before you purchase you investigate the area, look to see the future plans and what the area is designated for.

    • Tim Finnegan says:

      Business owners also have the right to do what is legal in commercial zoning areas. You moved into an area knowing it was zoned commercial. That is not the fault of the business. Each town/city has to have commercially zoned areas. There is alot more residentially zoned areas which means alot more areas for you to choose to live. It doesn’t make any difference how many years you have lived where you are. If you bought that property knowing that it was next to commercial property that is your fault.. If the area was rezoned while you were living there I would totally agree with you and like you would be very mad.and would figt it.

  6. NortonSmitty says:

    I would propose that the “Hey you Kids get off my lawn! Brigade” move to Palm Coast. It’s as quiet as a funeral. The only sound you will hear is the dull thud of your property values dropping.

    That doesn’t seem to be the case here in Flagler Beach. The values didn’t fall nearly as much and have recovered more and earlier. I think that’s because we have more of a lively, vibrant community that a lot of places envy us for. This has been a hallmark of all towns worth living in had for as long as I can remember.

    So maybe you old farts should put two and two together and stop your bellyaching.

  7. Elaygee says:

    Same as the poeple who built houses near airports and then complain about planes making noise. Too bad. It was a commercial zone from day one.

  8. jennifer says:

    You run the risk when you are near a zoned commercial area..bottom line. I don’t care what was there, what wasn’t there or what used to be there…..go move out to the country if you want a quiet setting. You do not purchase a home within 150 feet of a commercial property and have the same expectations of a deed restricted community.Really, what did they think was going to move in there a knitting shop? Just be thankful that it’s not a Harley Davidson motorcycle shop…revving up the engines every 10 seconds, squealing tires constantly. If I was Johnny Davis and you made me sell my property- I would sell it to some low life organization to rehabilitate perverts and thieves, maybe throw in some lepracy and aids cases and make your life hell. You think your property value is bad now….this man could make it a lot worse on you! So quit your complaining you troublemaker!

  9. stop projecting says:

    half the people complaining about this probably sit at home with there TV volume set to 26 sitting 7 feet away!! What a JOKE!!

    Frances, you live near a bar…bars…and you are complaining…

  10. Steve Wood says:

    The real truth is that this bickering is just FREE advertisement for JDs and all the band wagon people who more than likely do not even live at the beach. This again will soon pass away just like Patties did. All I ask is keep it down to a level that is not heard 3 blocks away inside your closed up home. No big deal.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      I beg to differ Steve. How could you be so cynical to suggest that this daily harassment by anonymous callers is merely a marketing strategy providing an opportunity to appear before the city commission to plead for Justice! That is a cynicism beyond Machiavellian!

      I mean just because Johnny D’s offers solo acoustic music almost every day where you can sit on the patio and enjoy the music while you watch the waves break on the beautiful Flagler shore, and where your waitress proudly serves you whatever tasty fresh-cooked food you may desire with a smile along with a frosty cool beverage that hopefully will make you forget the cares and relive the stress of your day and remembers your name and your beverage of choice and welcomes when you return along with all of the new-found friends you have made from your previous visit, and on top of all this you get prices lower than you ever would expect for this heavenly respite, even before the huge happy-hour discounts, Steve-O, c’mon, that’s just so sad that you have so little faith in your fellow human’s nature.

      That is just so damn depressingI think I’m gonna’ go to Johnny D’s for a drink to cheer my ass up.

      I just hope your happy with yourself for making me feel foolish believing in the eternal search for the Milk of Human Kindness.

  11. Anita says:

    Has anyone investigated the possibility of placing a sound absorbing barrier between the business and the residence? Surely a product like this must exist somewhere and if Mr. Davis would agree to turn the sound down a bit and they both went 50% – 50% on the cost of a sound barrier, they may find a way to live in peace.

  12. Tim Finnegan says:

    As a resident of Flagler Beach for 28 years and former restaurant owner/bar owner in Flagler Beach for 20 years I have watched this problem come up every couple of years. I was on the committee years ago that helped draft the current ordinance to appease everyone. First the business owners agreed to stop playing outside entertainment at 10 PM. Next they agreed to drop the decibel levels down to ither 65 or 70 decibels. This was based on studies from other towns. When I in particular disscussed the threats to noise levels I reminded the town that in a lawsuit, they would loose. When I lived in New York I had similar problems as what was happening here. I told the then commission to check the records in New York and see that I successfully sued New York City, the Town of Warwick and the village of Greenwood Lake. I also sued two of my neighbors who were harassing my business. They all lost!
    When you buy and or build next to commercially zoned property you risk the chance of having problems as this is not residential areas. They are zoned commercial for a reason. When I went to court in Warwick New York, my neighbor who was sued by me said I got this property for a great price and I should not be disturbed. My response was the reason you got your property for a great price was because it was next to my nightclub. The night club had been in existence continually for over 40 years. My business should not have been interferred with.
    They only way these problems can be worked out is to work together but it seems that every couple of years people want to change the rules that were previously agreed upon. This don’t work because eventually the business will have no entertainment and the Towns people will be watching Foot Loose in the park!

  13. Flagler Bch says:

    I’m sorry but if you purchase property in a commercial zone you are taking a chance. I don’t care if you purchased this property 100 years ago, you are taking a risk. I think the most businesses in Flagler Bch have tried to accommodate the local residences. Buyer beware!

  14. fb local says:

    I have lived in fb all my life,born and raised.i didn’t move here like most of you people!
    Beach bars and restaurants should be able to play music,but not all night!
    I live on the south side of town,so i don’t hear johnny ds,or golden lion,but i do hear finns.
    Lately the loudest has been the new cuban place,pan con doto.It is very annoying music!
    The guy plays sometimes until 11:30-12 at night.It’s not even cuban or spanish music?
    Last night i swear he was playing some adele or pink on his guitar.The owners should realize the
    law is to quiet down at 10 pm.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!!

  18. 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.

    • Joey says:

      A lot of these ‘sleazy watering holes’ were here long before the houses were. I moved close to the interstate and knew what there would be noise ahead of time. I put up a tall fence planted some tall trees and bought heavy curtains for my windows. What kind of effort have the homeowners done to reduce the sound other than complain harass legitimate businesses. If you don like it, turn your hearing aid down!

  19. Joey says:

    I don’t think stopping at 10PM is unreasonable from either side. I’ve been a sound technician for over 20 years and 60db is not that loud. That’s about as loud as an air conditioning unit. It can easily be muffled with a fence or some thick trees. Trying to compare it to a rock concert which has a standard of 110 db is ridiculous.

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