Revised ordinance on sound emitting devices of commercial golf carts sparks continued debate


Special to the PRESS

A golf cart as seen on Padre Blvd. (Photo by Freddy Jimenez)

The main topic of discussion at the August 21 South Padre Island City Council meeting was the revised ordinance put forth by the Council regarding sound emitting devices on commercial rental/leased golf carts on SPI.

The revised version of Ordinance 19-11, Section 18-30(D)(8)(I)-(IV)would not merely limit the decibel level of music emitted from commercial rental/leased golf carts on South Padre Island, but calls for the removal of stereo units from the carts completely and prohibits any Bluetooth devices as well. 

Gabi Vanounou of SPI Activity addressed the city’s legal representative at the meeting, asking “You’re saying here, you cannot have any Bluetooth device on the vehicle. My phone has a Bluetooth device, is that considered a Bluetooth device? There’s a couple of issues with this ordinance that I feel needs to be revisited,” Vanounou commented, adding “We have an issue that’s called noise, we don’t have an issue with the device itself.” Vanounou urged the Council to table any decision until the newly appointed committee formed to deal with this issue has the opportunity to adjust the specifics of the revision before voting on it.

Council members Joe Ricco and Kerry Schwartz were adamant in their position on the removal of music from the golf carts, with Council members Alita Bagley and Eva Jean Dalton opposing the wording and actions of the revised ordinance.

Schwartz commented on the ordinance, saying “This has been a nuisance to the residents. I’m very pro-business, I want everybody to make money, but when there’s a segment of the business that becomes a nuisance to the residents, and us having a quality of life – this ordinance was passed back in March to reduce the sound levels, and nothing was done.”

Dalton expressed concern over the wording of the ordinance. ” I’d just like to make a comment that  it does say that in the ordinance, that any sound device which emits noise as described above and is currently installed on motorized carts must be removed.” Dalton appeared troubled by that portion of the revised ordinance.

Council member Alita Bagley referred to the first meeting of the committee appointed to deal with the situation that had taken place earlier in the day, praising the members of the committee for addressing the many facets of the problem and attempting to find a resolution that would satisfy the business owners, tourists, and residents. 

But Bagley added, “Rather than coming in with this extreme ordinance that just takes out everything, I think it behooves us all to take another look at it and see if we can’t come up with something.” Bagley expressed the desire to table the issue and allow the committee to find a better solution than the one being presented. 

Will Greenwood, business partner of Gabby Vanounou, addressed the council, stating that their company had installed sound restricting devices on all of their carts. Greenwood presented a video to the council, showing the tutorial customers receive when renting the carts that instruct them not only on the decibel level restrictions, but also seat belt usage, use of parking brakes, the horn, and not driving on sidewalks or the beach. The video also showed customers describing how much they enjoyed not only the music allowed on the carts, but their convenience, fun factor, and ease in traversing the Island. 

Greenwood ended his video presentation by stating “I hope you see a better side of the golf cart rental industry on South Padre. I think the music feature needs more consideration before finalizing an ordinance. Since the subcommittee on golf cart rentals has been formed, I think it makes sense that the sound device issue should be an item for their committee to discuss and give a recommendation to City Council on.”

Greenwood also urged the Council to table the issue, saying “Let the golf cart subcommittee analyze this issue further and give it the attention it deserves. The decision Council made last meeting is going to lower the income of our business.  Let me repeat that again, voting to remove the speakers from the golf carts entirely will lower the income for our businesses. We are doing our best to work with the city and our community to address this issue as well as meet the needs of our customers and offer them a fun activity to do while they’re visiting South Padre Island.”

Ultimately, Council members Ricco and Schwartz proposed editing the wording to say “disconnect and or remove” the sound emitting devices, and the first reading of the revised ordinance was approved, with Council members Joe Ricco, Kerry Schwartz, and Ken Medders voting in favor, and Council members Alita Bagley and Eva Jean Dalton voting against. 

In other City business, a representative from Kimley-Horn gave an update on the Padre Boulevard median, boardwalk and sidewalk related improvements related to the PR 100 venue tax project. Flush medians have been replaced and they have coordinated with AEP and the Laguna Madre Water District for additional medians and have reviewed designs with TxDOT. There will be a stop light installed at the Birding Center. Bids for the project will be put out on September 4, and on October 16, the contract for the construction will be awarded. The timeline for the construction to begin has yet to be determined,  but plans are to begin by the end of 2019 or immediately after the holidays.

Action has also moved forward regarding substandard structures that have been identified on SPI.  Building official David Travis informed the Council that letters via certified mail were sent to the owners of some of the buildings today, and others will be going out the first week of September, most notably being the former Chaos Nightclub building. Travis reported that his department met with one of the building owners and their architect, to discuss their plans for renovation of the building.  

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