Following a contentious Town Council meeting in which some council members backed off on an unpopular noise ordinance, many Ponce Inlet residents are saying that the real leadership at the meeting came not from council members, but from business owners and the hundreds of residents who packed the council chambers and spoke out on the matter.
The angry crowd was forced to wait over five hours while the Council dealt with other business, refusing to move the big issue to the forefront. Several residents and other customers of local restaurants spoke in opposition to the more-restrictive law which they felt would stifle live music in the town. But none voiced their concerns better than two business owners, North Turn co-owner Rhonda Glasnak and Down the Hatch co-owner Simone Johnson.
The Council had been divided between Tami Lewis and Tom Rutledge on one side, who opposed the unpopular new restrictions, and Mayor Kris Derr and councilwoman Barbara Davis, who supported them. Over 200 residents came to the meeting wearing orange t-shirts reading “Save the Restaurants in Ponce Inlet”. Only one resident showed up to speak in favor of the new ordinance, which would have lowered the allowable noise level and not allowed longer hours during special events such as Bike Week and SpeedWeeks.
The present ordinance limits music levels to 70 dB until 10 pm, and 65 dB until 11 pm. If there’s a complaint, a town police officer must measure the sound level with a meter. Under the proposed law, no meter was required, and a violation could be issued by an officer standing at a business’ property line.
Simone Johnson called the debate a “non-issue,” saying there was no problem with sound in the town, and fewer than three complaints a year per restaurant. She and Rhonda Glasnak drew enthusiastic applause when they spoke at the meeting. The following day she thanked her customers and other residents for their strong support. “This has been a very challenging time in our town of Ponce Inlet. But thanks to your support, a compromise prevailed.”
“The compromise that was reached still has some objectionable sections, like the ‘plainly audible’ phrase, the subjectivity of whether it is ‘impractical or impossible’ to use the scientific sound measuring device, and the insertion of the new language defining ‘the emission of low frequency sound bass that can be felt’. Only time will tell, when this new ordinance is used in enforcement, whether or not it will affect the businesses in town.”
Johnson said that she had no doubt that the “sea of orange t-shirts, 1,190 signed petitions, hundreds of e-mails sent to town hall, and the passion that was spoken from the podium by our loyal and faithful” was what swayed the council.
Rhonda Glasnak from the North Turn restaurant agreed. “I hope last night was the begining of a new time for our town. I believe that we can work together to make Ponce Inlet a fair place for all the citizens, not just a select few.” She urged residents to stay involved and let council members know how they felt about the way the meeting was conducted. “Let them know there was no regard for the citizens that stood out in the night air. No regard for any of the two hundred plus people of the community! All Mayor Derr had to do was rearrange the agenda!”
She also criticized the mayor for leaving the meeting early. “I would also suggest if she chooses to represent our town in the highest seat, she rearrange her personal schedule or step down. I do not believe you should walk out of a meeting because things are not going your way! If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen! She stated her children were home alone! Perhaps she should have gotten a baby sitter — after all she is the Mayor.”
Michelle Ross-Purvis was at the meeting and used some colorful language to express her opinions, reflecting the feelings of many who were present. “Our mayor clearly has her own agenda and couldn’t give a s*** about this town and its residents! There were an amazing amount of people who showed up last night to support our friends and business owners. She kept rearranging the agenda, pushing the noise ordinance further and further down. She clearly did this to try and dissuade us so we would leave. Six flippin’ hours we were in that meeting!!”
“Then after calling it, she put it on hold and went on to something else….oh yeah….THE CHRISTMAS PARADE!! That clearly was more important then your town’s people, wasn’t it, Miss Derr? And now for the kicker — guess who decided she didn’t want to be there anymore and went home in the middle of the debate?”
In addition to the Down the Hatch and North Turn restaurants, Jerry’s Pizza and Tiki Bar and the Inlet Harbor Restaurant were also impacted by the noise ordinance. How do you feel about this issue?