Leesburg's noise ordinance will be getting an overhaul after Town Council settled on a cleaned-up revision that will be voted on during council's next meeting.
Council spent more than two hours this week parsing and voting on various aspects of the proposal.
Last October, more than a dozen downtown residents and business owners came to council asking for either later hours or greater restrictions to outdoor music. Many local businesses believe that the current curfew of 8 p.m. is too early, while some residents said that the music is too loud and too late.
Tuesday night, council focused on making sure that businesses don’t continually break noise violations without penalty. Last season, the police said, officers received 48 business complaints, many from repeat offenders. Police only issued one summons.
“If we continue to do the same thing we’ve been doing, it won’t result in summons ... while there will still be 40-some violations,” Councilman Tom Dunn said.
Council voted to bump the curfew back on Fridays and Saturdays so businesses can play amplified music outdoors between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. Previously, there was a curfew of 8 p.m. but no start time. The 8 p.m. cutoff will still apply Sunday through Thursday.
Council also voted to allow special events, like races, to receive amplified music permits from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To have amplified music at other times, council proposed that businesses must apply for permits that would last for one year instead of applying on an event-by-event basis.
According to the proposed ordinance, the town will revoke a permit if the permit-holder has three violations that result in a police summons within a six-month period. If a permit-holder has their permit revoked, they could appeal to council within 10 days and pay an appeal fee of $25.
Council voiced multiple concerns during discussion. Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez didn’t like that ultimately reporting falls on neighbors, and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox was concerned that private citizens might have to apply for a year-long permit instead of on a case-by-case basis.
The main disagreement was over whether to revoke permits after a certain number of summonses or a certain number of violations where police are called.
Police Chief Gregory Brown advised council to base it on summonses rather than violations, as officers prefer to be mediators rather than enforcers.
Resident Terri Simmons spoke to the issue, urging council to reconsider pushing the curfew back.
“Remember that there are no volume restrictions,” she said. “Just because it’s a weekend doesn’t mean that residents stay up late.”
The acting attorney’s office will draft the proposed ordinance revisions, and council will vote on a finalized version at its March 24 meeting.
“We have been and are becoming a music town,” Councilman Ron Campbell said. “We also want to say we have a community where we can live, work and play. We have to combine those two.”
Correction: This story has been updated to list the correct appeal fee of $25. The incorrect information was provided by the Town of Leesburg staff, which notified the Times-Mirror of the error.