In a roll-call vote on September 26, 2023, Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve Ordinance 2023-12, which will regulate noise pollution from watercraft, particularly in residential areas. Commissioner Steve Champion was not present during the vote; however, he moved for approval prior to leaving the meeting.
The new ordinance amends the Hernando County Code, Chapter 7 (Boats and Waterways), Article IV (Protection of Aquatic Marshes and Grasses).
The language added to the code, taken from Chapter 327 Section 65 of the 2023 Florida Statutes, reads, “No person shall operate or give permission for the operation of any vessel on the waters of the state within the jurisdictional boundaries of Hernando County, or on a specified portion of the waters thereof, in such a manner as to exceed the following sound level at a distance of 50 feet from the vessel: for all vessels, a maximum sound level of 90 dB A.”
Additional language states that the refusal of a sound level test by law enforcement will adjudicate the offender guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by Florida Statutes 77.082 or 775.083 or Chapter 2, Article III of the Hernando County Code.
Chapter 327, Section 65, states that any county wishing to impose additional noise pollution and exhaust regulations on vessels may, pursuant to s. 327.60(2), adopt by county ordinance the above regulations.
Chairman John Allocco noted the limitations of existing sound ordinances, such as a state statute that excludes regulations of sound emissions from vehicles on roadways. “The courts have already ruled [law enforcement] cannot enforce sound from a car. A waterway is considered a roadway.”
Commissioners discussed and ultimately agreed that regulating behaviors is difficult in this respect since acquiring proof of the offense is difficult on land, and vessels on waterways come with new challenges.
Allocco summarized, “It’s a First Amendment issue, and you can’t give people tickets anymore for [driving with] loud radios. This is exactly what this is. It’s a navigable waterway; it’s considered a roadway. It’s frustrating as heck, and it’s just rude people. And it just gives another example of why government costs so much. Because we’re constantly dealing with stupid people who aren’t good neighbors.”