February 1, 2020
For immediate release
Chapel Hill: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award for excessive nighttime noise. Under new management, a beautiful quiet botanical garden has morphed into a noisy outdoor event center in a historic residential district, hosting 373 events in a 12-month period.
The following videos demonstrate the noisy, inconsiderate actions of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens:
Karen Hall, an area resident, noted that “our neighborhood, which sits 140 feet away from Selby Gardens, has been subjected to more than 40 nighttime events since October 2019. These events, usually weddings and concerts, host from 100 to 2500 people and last until 11:00 pm—directly across from my home. Amplified music has been played as loud as 100 decibels, although recently they have agreed to lower it to 65. However, no one in the city is enforcing the lower decibel. They have not and will not do anything about the crowd noise–which is almost as bad as the music. Alcohol is served and as the evening progresses, the crowd gets louder.”
The sound from these events carries great distances, as the barrier between Hall’s neighborhood and the gardens is a small bayou—and water carries sound.
Hall and her family “cannot watch our television, use our back yard, entertain on our back porch, or go to sleep until their celebrations are over. By the time they end we are so stressed, it usually takes another hour to settle down. The excessive noise is affecting our quality of life, our mental health, and our property values.”
Unfortunately, Hall reports that “the Sarasota city manager has inexplicably continued to issue special events permits and has no interest in helping us. We have asked Selby Gardens to move amplified music indoors and they refuse. We are working with our city’s commissioners to bring about change in Sarasota’s noise ordinance, or at the very least enforce the ordinance in place without exception. But, as you can guess, it’s slow going.”
Joyce Cloutier, another neighbor of the Marie Selby Botanical Garden, states that “most people would think that having a botanical garden near their home would provide an oasis of peace and tranquility. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Marie Selby. The quaint garden that Marie Selby left for the public to enjoy has become nothing more than a noisy ‘rent the event’ center for events twelve months a year. Some of these events have over 1500 guests, with live music, disc jockeys, and the accompanying noise of loud crowds, clean-up crews, and the traffic generated by the event. For the neighbors, an event ending at 11 pm means noise until midnight.”
Cloutier observes that Sarasota city government “has turned a deaf ear to our pleas and requests to return our neighborhood to a peaceful and healthy place to live. The Marie Selby gardens routinely requests and is granted permission to exceed the current noise ordinance and is allowed to have music up to 100 dB. This not only creates excessive noise but also vibrations that have set off alarm systems. We keep wondering how can this garden-turned-event-center is allowed to operate in a residential neighborhood in this manner?”
Christine Hannafin, a Sarasota resident, notes that “the Selby Gardens web site indicates that their mission is ‘to provide an oasis of inspiration and tranquility, while furthering the understanding and appreciation of plants, especially epiphytes.” Hannafin notes that “for almost 50 years, the public and the neighbors delighted in this peaceful jewel of beauty and tranquility.”
Marie Selby administrators have secured permits to allow 100 decibels of sound for these frequent events. This is much louder than permitted in the downtown restaurants and bars. They have also requested that the zoning be changed, from residential, to commercial.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that workers should have less than 15 minutes of noise exposure at 100 decibels per day. Eighty-five decibels and above can cause hearing loss. Their workers, volunteers, and guests are exposed to a high noise levels, as they attend events that go on for hours.
A few months ago, Hannafin “attempted to attend a Sunday afternoon concert, on Selby’s lawn. I could not bear the sound level. I left the concert area as fast as I could, and I left the gardens.”
Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet, stated that “a botanical garden should not be a major source of unnecessary, harmful noise. Selby Gardens should be a much better neighbor.”
Those wishing to offer support for the plight of Selby Gardens’ neighbors may contact:
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization opposed to excessive noise. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Titusville, Florida; Gainesville, Florida; and Florida State Senator Audrey Gibson.