How loud is loud?
On the decibel scale, which is logarithmic, an increase of 10 means that a sound is 10 times more intense and sounds twice as loud. The humming of a refrigerator is about 45 decibels, normal conversation is about 60 decibels and heavy city traffic can reach 85 decibels. Motorcycles, firecrackers and small firearms can reach 120 to 150 decibels.
Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders, online at www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/noise.htm
Nighttime decibel levels
Location, Allowable nighttime noise (in decibels)*
Steamboat Springs, 55
Denver’s LoDo District, 60
San Diego, downtown, 60
Washington, downtown, 60
Park City, Utah, 65
Austin, Texas, commercial/recreation districts, 70
Different cities set different hours for nighttime noise regulations. In Steamboat Springs, the nighttime noise limit of 55 decibels applies from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Source: Steamboat Springs Department of Planning and Community Development
Steamboat Springs A promotional campaign alleging that future city noise regulations could “put an end to indoor and outdoor entertainment in Steamboat” turned up the volume on a downtown debate Wednesday.
But city officials said potential revisions to the law actually could increase the level of allowable nighttime noise.
The Ghost Ranch Saloon advertised “Keep Steamboat Cool” on its Twitter feed Tuesday night, providing a link to a Facebook page with a printable flier that says new noise regulations would set a limit of 60 decibels, lead to liquor license revocations for repeated violations and end “all outdoor dining in Steamboat.”
“It concerns me greatly that basically every entertainment or outdoor dining facility in Steamboat will be in violation of a 60-decibel ordinance pretty much 24 hours a day,” Ghost Ranch co-owner Amy Garris said Wednesday. “Sixty decibels is not very loud.”
Sixty decibels is about as loud as normal conversation. It’s the allowable nighttime noise level in Aspen, Vail and Denver’s LoDo district. It’s also five decibels louder than Steamboat Springs’ current nighttime noise limit of 55 decibels.
Tyler Gibbs, city planning and community development director, said Wednesday that the Keep Steamboat Cool flier is “jumping to a lot of assumptions that are inaccurate.” He said no revisions to the noise ordinance have been drafted, no set decibel level has been determined and no time frame is set for the public process of proposed changes.
“It certainly has no intention of ending live music in Steamboat. Absolutely not,” Gibbs said about a potential revised ordinance. “There is absolutely no intention of trying to put anybody out of business. … Putting these fliers out here is kind of jump-starting the conversation without having all the information on the table, unfortunately.”
Gibbs said proposed revisions likely would recommend increasing allowable nighttime noise.
“Probably our existing ordinance is a little low for the downtown context,” he said.
Ghost Ranch, a downtown bar and music venue on Seventh Street, has been central to downtown noise debates that intensified in summer and stretched into fall.
Garris said in November that Ghost Ranch spent an “absolute fortune in legal fees” contesting a July citation for alleged violation of a city noise ordinance. The citation followed a call from a Howelsen Place resident during a concert at the Ghost Ranch.
Howelsen Place is a commercial and residential development across Seventh Street from Ghost Ranch. Mark Scully, managing director of Howelsen Place developers Green Courte Partners, said the Keep Steamboat Cool flier contains “dramatic misstatements of fact,” including an allegation that Green Courte “coerced” the Steamboat Springs City Council to tighten noise regulations with threats of a lawsuit. Scully called lawsuit allegations untrue and said he’s looking for cooperation, not conflict.
“We are fully supportive of keeping Steamboat cool,” he said, referring to the sentiment, not the Facebook campaign. “All I’m asking Ghost Ranch to do is the same thing every other bar in Steamboat does, and that’s be a good neighbor.”
‘We need nightlife’
Gibbs said his department has been examining city noise ordinances across the country while working to prepare proposed revisions for Steamboat.
Councilman Jon Quinn said that those revisions could come before the council in late April after a Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting.
Garris said Keep Steamboat Cool is an effort to spur attendance at those meetings.
“The idea is that we get the public involved in this process,” she said. “This is an ordinance that would likely shut down a lot of businesses if it passes.”
Quinn refuted that notion.
“We need nightlife — we absolutely need a robust and thriving nightlife scene,” Quinn said. “I’m not at all interested in closing down bars or restricting the kind of music they can play. That’s all absolute nonsense.”
Garris said business associates of hers created the Keep Steamboat Cool campaign.
Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, said she learned about it Wednesday, after being told that Mainstreet appeared on the campaign’s Facebook page. Because Keep Steamboat Cool “liked” Mainstreet, a Facebook indicator of approval, her group appears on the Keep Steamboat Cool page.
“They liked me rather than me liking them. There’s no way I can get them to unlike me,” Barnett said. “It makes me look like I’m supporting what they’re saying, and that actually upsets me because I don’t think any of the things I’ve seen on that website are based in fact.”
–To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com