Noise ordinance not an issue for Steamboat businesses |

Noise ordinance not an issue for Steamboat businesses

Jack Weinstein

— Ghost Ranch Saloon co-owner Amy Garris describes the three months since Steamboat Springs' new noise ordinance took effect as "pretty uneventful."

Garris said her downtown bar and entertainment venue has received a couple of complaints about outside noise made by patrons, but not about the music coming from inside. Garris said she's heard similar reports from owners of other establishments.

She was among the most vocal opponents of the new noise ordinance that the Steamboat Springs City Council approved July 19. City Council members will hear an update about it Tuesday night.

At the time, some bar and restaurant owners like Garris questioned whether they'd be able to comply with the proposed ordinance that limited noise in commercial areas to 60 decibels during nighttime hours.

That hasn't been the case.

"Anything that has come up is easily rectified, and I think the police department is doing a great job," Garris said.

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That doesn't mean everyone is pleased.

Mark Scully, managing director of Green Courte Partners, said late-night noise from the Ghost Ranch still impacts his Howelsen Place residences on the other side of Seventh Street.

"We still receive complaints," Scully said. "The ordinance is certainly reasonable. But until folks like Ghost Ranch do the basics — like put a vestibule on the front of their business like every other bar in town — this issue won't go away."

The revised ordinance actually increased the allowable noise from 55 to 60 decibels during nighttime hours, which are now defined as between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. It also measures the noise from the property line of the complainant as opposed to 25 feet from the property line of the source, which was how the previous ordinance worked.

The ordinance also increases allowable noise during daytime hours — 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. — from 60 to 65 decibels. The changes impact only those areas of the city defined as commercial zones.

The action capped about a year of discussion about how the city should address complaints from downtown residential property owners that nighttime noise coming from bars and entertainment venues is sometimes too loud.

City Planning Director Tyler Gibbs, who will present Tuesday's update about the noise ordinance with Police Capt. Joel Rae, said there have been no citations since it took effect.

"I think it's working the way we hoped it would," Gibbs said. "Really, the enforcement of the ordinance is the last resort."

Violating the new allowable noise level will now result in a warning for the first offense, a $250 fine for the second offense, $500 fine for the third offense and $999 for the fourth offense and any subsequent violations. A business found to be in violation of the noise ordinance can't be cited more than once in an eight-hour period. A municipal court judge could forgive assessed fines if the funds were used to fix a noise-related issue.

The ordinance included three- and six-month updates to the City Council, Gibbs said. He said this first update allowed police to monitor compliance through the summer. He said the next update in February would allow the city to see how the ordinance works through the holidays and the first part of the ski season.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

Agenda highlights

5 p.m. Steamboat Springs Liquor License Authority meeting

5:10 p.m. Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority meeting

5:30 p.m. Call to order; proclamation recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month; consent agenda, including a resolution to approve the 2012 operating plan and budget for the Downtown Steamboat Springs Business Improvement District; first reading of an ordinance to update the city’s municipal code related to water and wastewater charge discounts for elderly and disabled persons; and first reading of an ordinance to adopt and set appropriations for the city’s 2012 budget.

7 p.m. Public comment; Steamboat Springs Planning Commission written report; consideration of final development plan for the Betterview Business Park Lots 4 and 5, pre-application for a building addition to Tread of Pioneers Museum and a conceptual development plan for the Ptarmigan Inn Condos; and a request from City Council member Walter Magill to move $7,500 in community support funding from the Bike Town USA Initiative to the city’s Rodeo Board.

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