County Commissioners Crack Down on Noise

Posted on June 29, 2021 by Staff reports

Santa Rosa County Commissioners voted June 22 to increase restrictions on noise between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. 

Decibel restrictions will be set at 60 dB for residential properties, 75 dB for non-residential and 80 dB for industrial.

According to the CDC, normal conversation is about 60 decibels, a motorcycle engine is around 95 decibels, and prolonged noises greater than 70 dB can cause hearing damage.

The ordinance applies to power tools, landscaping and yard maintenance equipment, construction activities, and motor vehicles. Security alarms must also stop continuous noise after 5 minutes and non-continuous noise after 15 minutes.

Exemptions include public service vehicles, emergency activities, pool pumps, farming activities and power generators during outages and any declared local state of emergency.

Commissioners Bob Cole, Sam Parker and Colten Wright supported the amendment. Commissioner Dave Piech was absent. Commissioner James Calkins opposed it.

Previously the county’s noise ordinance called for code enforcement staff or law enforcement officers to sit inside their vehicle with the windows up while parked at the edge of a property to determine whether or not they could hear noise and issue a citation.

Now the county will buy 5-10 decibel readers, which cost around $3,500 each, to make that determination.

Variances can be requested for special events, such as live entertainment at restaurants.

Per the county: 
  • Noise will be measured by calibrated meters at the receiving property line, not at the source of the noise.
  • All alleged violators will receive a warning prior to being issued a fine.
  • The ordinance covers all of unincorporated Santa Rosa County and not the City of Milton, Gulf Breeze, or the Town of Jay.
  • The discharge of firearms is not subject to enforcement under this ordinance.
  • Special events, special construction needs, entertainment venues, racetracks, etc may seek a noise variance as needed through a process being currently developed.
  • Fines begin at $100 per occurrence and can double or triple with subsequent offenses.

The following will not result in a violation:

  • Running an air conditioner at night.
  • Talking to a neighbor.
  • Running an emergency generator.
  • Cheering at sports games.

The full ordinance is available online. If you have additional questions, please call Code Enforcement at 850-981-7090.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The print version of this story stated a second public hearing would take place before the ordinance was enacted. However that was not required.