Patrick L. Phillips: Noise balance needed

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— I am a new property owner in Steamboat Springs. Having spent many years enjoying Steamboat vacations, my wife and I are delighted to have recently purchased a condo in Howelsen Place in the city’s newly vibrant downtown. As Colorado natives and CSU grads now living in Washington, D.C., we are especially pleased to have found a place back home.

We actually looked for a place in Steamboat years ago, but it wasn’t until the most recent crop of downtown, mixed-use projects that we found exactly what we were looking for. To us, downtown’s mix of amenities, including dining, entertainment, the Yampa River and Yampa River Core Trail, and Emerald Mountain made for an unbeatable combination.

I work as the CEO of the Urban Land Institute, one of the world’s leading research and education organizations involved in land use and urban development. Before this job, I ran a consulting firm active in downtown revitalization and management, entertainment economics and mixed-use development. I’ve worked in downtowns large and small, all over the world. In my experience, the primary characteristic the most successful downtowns achieve is balance — balance between land uses, different kinds of people, modes of transport, levels of activity and, yes, noise levels. In our view, the proposed changes to the city’s noise ordinance, including a more realistic differentiation between commercial and residential zones, times of day and allowable sound levels, all serve to help achieve this balance.

The ordinance alone won’t ensure a healthy downtown, of course. City leaders, downtown managers, retailers, owners of the entertainment venues and new downtown residents each have to continually balance pursuit of their own self-interest with a sense of what’s best for the whole. This is mainly about mutual respect and consideration, not law enforcement. But refining the ordinance is an essential first step, one that clarifies expectations and establishes a clear — and, in our view, balanced — standard.

We think it’s great that downtown offers terrific entertainment venues, and we plan to visit them often. We’re certainly aware that an active downtown can be noisy, and we’ve invested additional money in specific improvements to mitigate potential noise in our particular unit. We don’t expect tranquility — that’s not why we’re downtown. The proposed ordinance will allow for nighttime entertainment to continue to thrive, and it helps protect the interests of and investment made by neighboring businesses and residents. This balance has been achieved in many communities across the nation through responsible management, with the government, business owners and managers, and residents working together. There is no reason it can’t also be achieved in Steamboat.

Patrick L. Phillips

Washington, D.C.

Comments

Steve Lewis 3 years, 8 months ago

Patrick, Welcome to Steamboat. There are some adults in the blogs too.

I'm impressed that you and another owner in Howelsen Place have joined this conversation. Good on you both for engaging the issue.

I agree with your neighbor, and leaving the law's decibels and hours unchanged. I'm not in favor of increasing the allowed decibels up to light industrial levels, and not in favor of moving the restriction's time from 7pm to 11pm.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 8 months ago

You suggest a realistic differentiation between commercial and residential zones. Bigger towns have more city blocks to spread this differentiation across. The scale and size matters.

Steamboat's scale might be considered intimate and quiet in comparison to true urban areas, but we used to have our own naturally occurring version of this differentiation. We call the valley around Lincoln Avenue "Old Town". Because the ski base area through the 80's, and 90's was becoming another town unto itself. The mountain base was louder and more transient. Old Town was quieter and slower. Some residential owners downtown, like myself, thought they were buying into the quiet end of this town. Recently, and rather suddenly, Atira's re-development of the base area has reversed this reality, when they demolished Ski Time Square and then presented plans that would replace only a fraction of the entertainment venues already demolished. Seems they want their quiet too.

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Steve Lewis 3 years, 8 months ago

Huh. My second post was actually submitted first. All are intended for Patrick's consideration. I broke up the post because the Pilot seems to have limited bandwidth today.

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Brian Smith 3 years, 8 months ago

Your right, balance is the key, but 60 dB after 11PM is not balanced, that is quieter than butcher knife creek and only favors whomever is trying to sleep after 11PM with there windows open.

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Kevin Nerney 3 years, 8 months ago

Ahh what do you "easterners" know anyway??? Furgettaboutit go back to where you came from. You don't expect us to use reason and common sense around here do you? ( for those of you without a sense of humor that was intended as sarcasm)

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bill schurman 3 years, 8 months ago

Reminds me of moving next to an airport or train tracks and complaining about the noise.

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