ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council is promising to beef up Islamorada's noise ordinance following a particularly loud Nov. 4 event at the Smugglers Cove complex on Windley Key.
"I'm going to bring up the noise ordinance with the council and see if we can reach a happy medium for the business owners and the residents," Councilman Dave Purdo said at a meeting last Thursday, four days after the incident.
Speaking before the council that night, Venetian Shores Homeowners Association board member Doug Rabe called the noise level during the Sunday evening event at Smugglers "excruciating."
"[F]or several hours, our houses, windows and doors were shaking," Rabe said.
Smugglers operator Michael Miller didn't take issue with the description in his own comments before the council.
"The incident last weekend was totally unnecessary, too loud, should have never happened," he said contritely.
Miller went on to explain that Smugglers had leased out the bar that night, which was why it was powerless to have the noise level reduced once complaints began coming in.
Rabe said that Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies were called to Smugglers that evening, but they explained to him that they were also unable to act because the village's noise ordinance doesn't set a maximum decibel level.
The ordinance instead states that the means of measuring whether a noise disturbance is occurring "shall be by ordinary, auditory senses of a reasonable person with normal sensitivities." The law also makes an exception for bands and stereo music at bars likes Smugglers until 10 p.m. weeknights and 11 p.m. weekends.
The Nov. 4 complaints weren't the first to be lodged against Smugglers Cove recently. On Oct. 19, a Friday night, Venetian Shores resident Cheryl Culberson sent a complaint to the entire Village Council.
"Tonight once again the music from the band playing at Smugglers Cove is so loud I can hear the singer taking a breath between words," she wrote. "The screaming and shrieking fools I hear do not make it better."
Culberson also recommended that the council "refer to numerous previous complaints."
That email led to a contentious response from Purdo, who after noting he had talked with Miller about keeping the noise down, went onto to take issue with criticisms Culberson made of the Sheriff's Office, Smugglers and the Village Council.
"When there are no violations of our ordinances, there is no action that this council or any council can take or make demands for enforcement," he wrote three days after the complaint.
Purdo also told Culberson that of the four complaints Capt. Corey Bryan told him the Sheriff's Office had received about noise at Smugglers since February, three were from her.
Purdo changed his tone last week when he called for a new look at the noise ordinance.
Other board members agreed.
"I think it needs to be on an agenda item as quickly as possible when the new council is seated," Mayor Ken Philipson said, referencing Deb Gillis and Mike Forster, who will be sworn in to replace councilmen Don Achenberg and Michael Reckwerdt on Nov. 29.
Village Manger Ed Koconis said his staff is already working on recommendations for the noise ordinance.
Miller assured the council he'd be amendable to changes in the law.
"We will work with the council to cooperate on any rules or new regulations relevant to noise," he said. "We do want to be a good neighbor."