Nighttime noise discussion returns to Steamboat

City Council to review potential changes to regulations Tuesday

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— 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.

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 mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

sodacreekpizza 3 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for an informative story that includes information to put the proposed ordinance in a useful context for those of us without the knowledge to judge the proposed ideas. What other similar communities are doing is a useful comparison. The story appears to show that our current standard is in line with several other communities (although not as strict at Telluride which is known for a thriving entertainment scene) and that the proposed changes would bring us to a fairly liberal standard.

I am not sure I understand why a business that would benefit from relaxed standards (both allowable level and hours) would oppose the changes...

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seeuski 3 years, 8 months ago

They took the license from Sweat Pea but they say they wouldn't take a liquor license from a restaurant for violating a noise ordinance? Hmmm.

To those of you who complain that we need nightlife at the Ski Time Square area, this ordinance is aimed at you, it nearly guarantees that there won't be.

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Brian Smith 3 years, 8 months ago

An ordinance that would let a few complainers override what is best and what the majority of this community wants, which is a lively downtown/base area providing entertainment and jobs to full time residents and guests alike would be wrong. Yes, they are talking about raising the DB, that's great, but raising it to an unreasonable level doesn't do any good. Seriously, the city thinks 60db which is a normal conversation between two people is a reasonable level for a thriving downtown area at night? How about they require downtown residents to shut there windows at night, that's what I do when the rodeo is going on and I am ready for bed.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

It appears to me the far more important element is when the local government enforces a violation. If it is enforced 1, 5, or 10 dB above the ordinance levels determines what sort of activity is allowed. Some cities basically ignore downtown establishments unless they are doing something obnoxiously stupid while enforcing it against residents.

Since the Ghost Ranch situation is the reason why this issue is in front of the CC then it would only be fair and responsible for the CC to state how they expect this to affect the Ghost Ranch. Is this intended to protect the Ghost Ranch from complaints? Or is this expected to force the Ghost Ranch to further change their operations?

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Brian Smith 3 years, 8 months ago

Great point Scott. I went back to the Keep Steamboat Cool Facebook page, this is a direct quote from Mark Skully of Howelsen Place, " We only have complaints emanating from Ghost Ranch. Not Sunpies, not Boathouse, not Sweetwater Grille, not Old Town Pub, not Lincoln Ave traffic, not lighted man, nothing but Ghost Ranch". Should a city ordinance be completely revised because a couple part time residents are not happy with there full time neighbors that pay taxes and employee full time residents? They don't have a problem yet, what happens when HP decides they don't like the OTP or Sunpies?

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Brian Smith 3 years, 8 months ago

When I say revised, I mean with such harsh penalties attached to it, when the ordinance has been relaxed and worked fine for the past how many years?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

What I think is interesting from the packet information is how so many cities have noise ordinances with levels below SB and so on. Thus, it is even more clear that the ordinance itself is largely irrelevant, but what matters is how it is enforced. How about standing on property lines in downtown Aspen and take some measurements and see what is not being enforced.every night?

The enforcement policy is even more obviously important when first citation is a $250 fine and not a warning. And after 15 minutes of sustained noise counts as two violations and after 30 minutes as 3 violations. With second being $500 and 3rd being $999. So 31 minutes of noise could be a $1749 fine. 61 minutes could be $3747 and accumulated at $3996 per hour after that.

So is SB police seriously going to respond to a noise complaint and start handing out fines in the hundreds of dollars? An officer could spend an evening on the OHP property line, write up violations totaling over ten thousand dollars. Presumably, that is not going to happen, but what is going to happen?

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seeuski 3 years, 8 months ago

It starts to look like a targeted tax on an individual establishment. I thought that the commercial district in downtown Steamboat would be a louder area at night due to traffic on rt.40 and people looking for food and drink or dance so I decided NOT to live there to avoid the expected higher noise levels. What the heck is wrong with people? This makes no sense. If drunken hooligans are disturbing the peace then there are already laws in place to deal with that I would assume, but the fact that Ghost Ranch has built in noise insulation and some busy body city employee will walk around that establishment with a decibel meter is WRONG. And I don't even go there but this is just wrong. Maybe it is the intention of some to create a Ghost town out of the Ghost Ranch.

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allcot52 3 years, 8 months ago

My wife and I decided to settle in SBS after a few nights in the HP penthouse overlooking Ghost Ranch Saloon. GRS looked fun, we walked accross the street had dinner, enjoyed some music and slept well at HP after a nightcap on the deck lsitening to more "city" sounds. We bought property in rural Routt and settled there. Since,we have entertained freinds and family in the lovely and lively city center of SBS, we go to Stings events and dine out frequently almost always downtown. In Fresno, CA(our former home) the city fathers would do anything to get a venue like GRS to "revitalize" downtown. There is no shortage of available residential property in and around SBS. Why try to kill the "city" attractions we are blessed with to satisfy some prospective NIMBY urbanites? There may be a place for a noise ordinance but not containing draconian penalties this proposal carries. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Back in California they tried to fix everthing with a new law and that's why we relocated to SBS. If you let developers write every law all you'll get is a "bank owned" downtown after they decamp for greener pastures..

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

Considering that people of all political viewpoints have argued against this and there were no arguments made supporting the proposed noise ordinance, I predict it will pass with no more than one dissenting vote.

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Jon Sanders 3 years, 8 months ago

Our current ordinance has been in place for a great while and with little to no enforcement.

Presumably we now need an enforceable ordinance. Why? How many complaints became great enough to stir this need? Perhaps start by discussing this with the our local SSPD. Are the complaints out of hand now? Just asking…

So perhaps the complaints are out of hand; we need to revise. Have we spent the time to discover whether the comparable areas, with the suggested DB, are enforcing their ordinance, any data here? Perhaps other communities haven’t had enough complaints & a lack of enforcement to stir a change? Or perhaps they have, anyone know? Just asking…

Let's take a look at other communities, but even better, study our own. The City has some data of recorded DBs from this past winter. For how long has the data been collected? Did the City gather such data from City resources, or an independent source? Do we have this data available to the public? Does sound travel at greater DB in cold temperature or in warm temperature? Should we study our current DB through the summer to determine how such a change in ordinance would affect our local economy? Just asking…

Penalties for violation. What are comparable penalties for violations and continuance of violation? Do we have a matrix for penalties of comparable communities? Would the drafted penalty of State Liquor License revocation create undue liability for the City? Just asking…

Do we have enough information to make an informed decision?

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Leslie Faulkner 3 years, 8 months ago

the ghost ranch and ALL steamboat businesses need support whether they know it or not. when the city starts penalizing (and targeting) businesses for trying to do business, it's a ripple effect and affects us all. try to show up for the meeting tomorrow night. power in numbers...

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Kevin Nerney 3 years, 8 months ago

If 60 db is normal conversation between 2 people, is the city trying to limit any talking (free speech) after dark? Many people tourists included travel in groups. So lets say four of five people are leaving the bar at the same time. If anyone ever watches some of these talk shows on TV like the View or Fox News or any show where a dicussion ensues you know that people talk over one another. Back to that group that was just leaving. It's Midnight so it's too early to turn in. One guy says lets go to Mahagony Ridge and a girl says no I want pizza someone else chimes in something else, then somebody else start talking about the band blah blah blah. I'll bet dollars to donuts they have just exceeded 60 db. (especially after a few beverages). Now should the Police walk around going SHHHHHSH like a librarian?.What a waste of Taxpayer money that would be. If someone doen't like the sounds of the city they should wear earplugs just like the people how don't like the light wear eye shades.

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Scott Agnew 3 years, 8 months ago

The most telling part of this situation to me is that there has been a noise ordinance in effect in Steamboat for several decades, but there hasn't been an abundance of noise complaints over that time. The community as a whole understands the need for a lively nightlife and the needs of businesses to be able to attract customers. The lack of noise issues with the community as a whole would suggest to me that the rules that should be changed are in the building code of the city to require more stringent noise attenuation by developers. There is a lot of empty space in Ski Time Square that is slated for development which has the potential to make this even more of an issue. It's my belief that this argument (both here and across the country) is about realistic expectations. Steamboat residents are realistic about the noises of things such as garbage trucks, snow plows, snow cats and snow~making equipment, trains, the traffic that traverses the city on Lincoln Avenue, the Yampa River, and even bars and music venues in town. It is realistic to to expect places such as the Ghost Ranch to insulate their building against noise (as they have already done at great expense to them). It is realistic to expect the police department to patrol the streets of downtown and the mountain to keep people from loud, obnoxious and even destructive activity. I even feel that it's important to have a noise ordinance with realistic parameters that encourage parties to work together to solve issues without the undue wasting of city resources and tax dollars. This ordinance as written doesn't do that. It empowers those with unrealistic expectations (like sleeping with windows and doors open in high density zoning) or anyone with a grudge against a business owner or whose core values denounce someone's lifestyle. It allows someone to call in a complaint from anywhere ~ in a place that can actually hear the noise, to a home outside of town, anywhere you can place a phone call. It doesn't even require a complaint to be filed. A police officer could simply write a ticket because he could hear noise from the street. It doesn't require the complainant to utilize the noise attenuation devices at their disposal (such as closing windows or using central air to mitigate noise). The sound isn't measured at the source of the complaint (inside the unit where the complainant is residing) but is taken outside of the unit or home. (To me this is like investigating an arson by standing on the sidewalk and looking at the burned out building.) Finally, there are no ramifications to someone who makes repeated false complaints in order to simply harass. Considering there is the possibility of a business being shut down (losing a liquor license) and for police officers to be unable to perform any other duty than responding to noise complaints, I think that there needs to be a great deal more study and thought put into this before any decisions are made.

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seeuski 3 years, 8 months ago

I can't wait for the nice quiet New Years Eve celebrations in downtown Ghost Town USA. Keep up the good work CC.

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greenwash 3 years, 8 months ago

I would hardly say SBS Downtown or Mountain base has a lively nightlife , in fact its pretty sad,dead,boring most the time . One bar downtown and mabye one on the mountain....Thats it.

The issue is with a homeowner in HP that is having buyers remorse.Oh Well.

Shouldnt have fallen for the realtor BS that he was probably told to begin with.

Leave it alone.

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