CLEARWATER - Clearwater's annual Sun 'N Fun Festival kicked-off with two weekend concerts at Coachman Park, the two-day WSJT Smooth Jazz Fest on Friday and Saturday, and a free Oldies concert featuring Exile and Steppenwolf on Sunday.
Clearwater Police Department spokesperson Wayne Shelor said that about 5,000 people attended Friday's event, and downtown experienced only minor traffic issues. He said that 5,200 people attended on Saturday. Shelor described significant traffic delays, including periods of gridlock downtown. The Corporate Sports Fest on Clearwater Beach added to Saturday's traffic woes, which abated at about 4PM. Sunday's event was attended by about 3,200 according to Shelor. He said that there were minor traffic issues, but the day was "pretty quiet."
It may have been quiet from the aspect of police activity, but the volume of the music in Coachman Park was anything but. The Gazette measured the sound levels of the concerts on Friday and Sunday using the same device used by the City, and observed readings in excess of the self-imposed average 95-db limit previously described by Clearwater Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar.
Portions of Friday's performance by Wayman Tisdale attained average sound levels between 94 and 107 db, peaking at a maximum of 110db. Later in the evening, a flute solo during a performance by Down To The Bone registered an average reading ranging between 98 and 105 db.
Although the group Bachman Turner Overdrive were not performing on Sunday, their hit title You Aint Seen Nothing Yet would have been an appropriate introduction to the day's events. During the performance of Exile, the Gazette's sound level meter recorded average readings between 93 and 104 db at the "house mix", and peaks of 110 db. Readings ranged from 84 to 94 db at the library on top of the bluff.
The final act of the weekend, Steppenwolf, was no quieter. During the performance of their hit Sookie, Sookie, the average sound level at the "house mix" ranged consistently between 101 and 108 db, dropping briefly to a low of 98db several times.
Fortunately for residents of Clearwater's Island Estates and Old Clearwater Bay neighborhoods, the weekend's prevailing southwest to northwest winds carried the music away from their homes; Shelor was unaware of any noise complaints from homeowners.
Clearwater City manager Bill Horne was present at Sunday's event. He said that he was comfortable with the sound level. Kevin Dunbar later explained that the self-imposed limit of 95db is an average, and that the actual sound level might spike above that periodically.
Why is there only an informal self-imposed noise limit, not one defined by City ordinance? The Noise section of Clearwater's Community Development Code prohibits any loud or raucous noise "that can be heard at a distance of 100 feet or more from the source of the noise." It makes an exception, however, for "Parades, fireworks displays, outdoor music performances and other special events for which a permit has been obtained from the city;" Last weekend's events, like all Coachman Parks concerts, were permitted by the City!
Clearwater's enforcement is performed not by a City employee, but by a sound crew contractor who monitors levels at the source, the so-called house mix located about 100 feet from the stage. According to Dunbar, if the sound crew notes that the levels are being exceeded regularly, then they will bring the volume levels back down to within the acceptable limit.
Unlike Clearwater, the City of St. Petersburg's Noise Pollution code does not grant an exception for concerts. Noise is measured not at the source, but in nearby residential areas, and hard limits, not averages, are defined. For residential areas, St. Petersburg restricts noise level to 75db between the hours of 8AM and 6PM, 70db between 6PM and 11PM, and 60db between 11PM and 8AM. According to Thomas Jackson, St Petersburg's Manager of Co-sponsored events, St. Petersburg Police officers are equipped with sound level meters; when complaints are received, those officers measure the sound level in the affected neighborhood and have the ability to order the concert's sound level to be reduced.
Had St. Petersburg's, not Clearwater's, code been in effect during last weekend's concerts, it's likely that sound levels would have been the same; there were no residential neighborhoods downwind of Coachman Park to complain. But that was simply a stroke of luck; an easterly or southerly wind would have carried the loud music into the Island estates or Old Clearwater Bay neighborhoods, likely igniting complaints like those received during last December's Next Big Thing concert, and triggering enforcement activity.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition