Nighttime noise discussion returns to Steamboat |

Nighttime noise discussion returns to Steamboat

City Council to review potential changes to regulations Tuesday

Mike Lawrence

— Proposed changes to city regulations would increase the allowable level of nighttime noise in commercial areas and decrease the amount of hours designated as nighttime, while affirming the potential for continued violations to impact a business's liquor license, setting the stage for public discussion this week.

Local noise debates intensified last summer and have continued through fall and winter, involving business owners and residents both downtown and near the base of Steamboat Ski Area. City planning staff is scheduled to present proposed noise ordinance revisions to Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night in Centennial Hall for an informal discussion before finalized revisions enter the public review process in coming weeks.

The proposed revisions include increases of allowable noise in commercial districts, to 65 decibels in the daytime and 60 decibels at night. Current regulations allow 60 decibels in the daytime and 55 at night.

Current city regulations define nighttime hours as 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The new, draft ordinance proposes nighttime hours from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., decreasing the amount of hours that require a lower decibel level.

Sixty decibels is about as loud as normal conversation. It's the allowable nighttime noise level for commercial districts in Aspen, Vail, San Diego and Seattle, and for Denver's LoDo district. Breckenridge allows 65 decibels at night for commercial districts, and Austin, Texas, allows 70.

Telluride, however, restricts any noise "plainly audible at 50 feet" after 9 p.m., and Park City, Utah, restricts any noise audible beyond the property line of the source after 10 p.m.

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Steamboat's proposed revisions would set the measuring point for noise violations at the property line of the affected property, rather than the source.

Revisions assess a minimum fine of $250 for a business's first violation, $500 for the second and $999 for the third violation and beyond.

Proposed revisions also add language to clarify that a fourth or subsequent infraction could violate conduct of business regulations in Colorado's liquor code, and therefore "may be the basis for a suspension or revocation hearing for said liquor license, or for the non-renewal of said license."

Tyler Gibbs, director of the city's Department of Planning and Community Development, wrote in a report to City Council that the potential attachment of noise violations to liquor licenses in Steamboat Springs "is current practice, whether directly referenced or not, and has been considered in license reviews in Telluride and Golden, among other communities."

Ghost Ranch Saloon co-owner Amy Garris said such revisions could have disastrous results for local bars.

"We're going to see revocations of liquor licenses — and it's going to happen quickly," she said Sunday.

Gibbs reiterated last week his position that the revisions are in no way intended to close down businesses or create extreme, heavy-handed enforcement.

"The Steamboat Springs community recognizes the immense value of both a thriving entertainment scene as well as the ongoing revitalization of our downtown and mountain village as true mixed-use neighborhoods," Gibbs wrote in the City Council report. "Successful cities across the country have seen perhaps their greatest renaissance in the success of their most diverse urban districts. Steamboat is not unique in the need to address the challenges of this success."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email

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