Steamboat City Council gives revised noise ordinance 1st approval


— The City Council, by a 5-2 vote, approved the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that would revise the limit on the amount of allowable noise in residential and commercial areas. The ordinance would limit the night noise level to 60 decibels in commercial areas from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The current ordinance defines night hours as being from 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and limits noise to 55 decibels.

Council members Walter Magill and Kenny Reisman opposed the motion, citing a desire for a higher allowable decibel level at night.

During Tuesday’s meeting the City Council was presented decibel levels taken at different dates and times from June 2 to June 22 near the Ghost Ranch Saloon, Old Town Pub, Sunpies Bistro and Boathouse Pub. Each business exceeded the allowable night noise level on more than one occasion.

Ghost Ranch co-owner Amy Garris, who has been in a dispute with some Howelsen Place residential property owners over the noise generated by her venue on Seventh Street, says the ordinance sets businesses up for failure.

“We’re looking at setting an ordinance that just about every entertainment venue in town is only in compliance with, occasionally, when closed,” Garris said. “I’ve got a 57 and a 61 (decibel level) when the Ghost Ranch is closed.”

Ghost Ranch sound engineer William Scott Singer said all the city’s noise level readings were taken during high-water runoff. He said that put the Ghost Ranch at a disadvantage because of the noise created by Butcherknife Creek, which runs alongside the building.

Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said multiple noise sources didn’t accumulate on top of one another. He said the city’s noise measurement equipment would measure the loudest sound and argued that Butcherknife Creek may actually benefit Ghost Ranch.

“I think it works to their favor,” he said. “That is a sound that’s always there and washes out some of the noise coming from the building.”

Mark Scully, managing director of Howelsen Place developer Green Courte Partners, also argued against the 60-decibel level — he wants it to be lowered. He pointed to a letter from the Denver Environmental Health Department that indicated the city’s night decibel level is restricted to 50. He implored the City Council to use Denver’s ordinance as the model Steamboat should adopt.

Steamboat’s proposed ordinance also would restrict noise levels in residential areas to 55 decibels and to 65 decibels in commercial areas between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The only exception would be construction activity during daytime hours.

A first offense of the proposed ordinance would result in a warning. A fine of $250 would be assessed for the second offense, $500 for the third offense and $999 for the fourth and subsequent offenses.

The City Council will consider a second reading of the ordinance on July 19.

Also Tuesday, the City Council:

■ Unanimously and without discussion approved a motion to add an effective date of Jan. 1, 2012, to the ballot question that will ask voters in November to consider whether to ban medical marijuana businesses.

Rocky Mountain Remedies co-owner Kevin Fisher said he recommended the city delay the ban, which would allow him to wind his business down, including getting rid of product. If voters approve the ban in November, it would have taken effect as soon as the city clerk certified the vote.

“If it takes effect the next day, we’d immediately be in violation of a million laws,” Fisher said. “… Two months is a fair amount of time, but I hope that’s a moot issue.”

■ Unanimously approved a second reading of an ordinance that would recognize the commercial medical marijuana businesses established by Colorado House Bill 1284, new legislation approved last year, if voters oppose the ban in November. It also would permit a fourth infused-product maker to operate in Steamboat.

■ Heard an update from Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett. Barnett informed council members that commercial real estate broker Bill Moser will take over as president of the group’s board of directors. Moser replaces Ruth Dombrowski, who left Alpine Bank to become office manager at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

■ Delayed second readings of two ordinances. One would require licensing of non-cigarette tobacco product retailers and the other would allow the city’s director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services to extend the commercial rafting season on the Yampa River between Confluence Park and Stock Bridge Park based on river flow.

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


Brian Smith 5 years, 9 months ago

This is pretty ridiculous, from the Citys Db readings presented at the meeting last night; 6/21/11 Ghost Ranch (Closed) - 61Db 6/3/11 OTP (Closed) - 68.6Db 6/3/11 Sunpies (Closed) - 70.5Db 6/3/11 Routt County Roadhouse (open) - 71.7Db 6/3/11 Boathouse (Closed) - 72.7Db With these numbers when some of the business's are closed, what do you think it looks like when they are open for business? Who can comply with 60Db? Mark Skully thought comparing Steamboat with Washington DC, Seattle and LoDo were good comparisons and that Breckenridge was not a good comparison (there nighttime Db is 70 I believe).


Brian Smith 5 years, 9 months ago

I should have clarified, when I say (Closed), the business was not even open for business.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

What are Joel Raes' sources supporting his statements: Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said multiple noise sources didn’t accumulate on top of one another. He said the city’s noise measurement equipment would measure the loudest sound and argued that Butcherknife Creek may actually benefit Ghost Ranch.

“I think it works to their favor,” he said. “That is a sound that’s always there and washes out some of the noise coming from the building.”

I am not a sound engineer, but I did take college physics and I'm pretty sure these comments defy the laws of physics. Sound is energy and thus additional sources makes it louder. dB measures energy and so it is the 50,000 fans yelling together in a stadium that combine to be 95 dB on the field. It is not 1 super loud guy and 49,999 irrelevant less noisy people.

Decibels is a logarithmic scale so two 60 dB sources do not add up to 120 db, but about 62 dB.

Though, the sound readings have made enforcement of the sound ordinance much more difficult because the ordinance sets the allowable noise levels to be less than background noise. So now the Police State can walk through downtown and cite everyone for noise violations, but now have a huge problem in court showing that the noise violation is from the accused as compared to being background noise.

Background noise can work as a form of white noise and make individual sounds less identifiable and possibly less irritating to neighbors, but background noise does not reduce decibel readings.

With these sort of background readings, I'd be surprised if any downtown business would ever lose in court for dB readings less than 75 dB.

How in the world did City Council get talked into setting the legal noise level to be substantially less than the City's own readings of background noise? What next? Banning weather that is too hot or too cold? And citing properties where the readings violate the city ordinance?


Thump 5 years, 9 months ago

Good plan city counsel, let’s stop all nightlife and put a curfew on the town. 60db? Are you seriously going to take some developer’s (Mark Scully, managing director of Howelsen Place developer Green Courte Partners), lowest possible Colorado decibel reading and go with that? I’m sure he could find a lower reading in, say, Uganda. It’s not the fault of any one business (you know, the things that bring jobs and revenue to the community). It’s the developer that shouldn’t place a residential building downtown without sufficient soundproofing. This is creating a thorn in the community’s side. Next are you looking to ban the river, train, fireworks, thunder, all or any trucks from going through town, rodeo, and anyone caught sneezing over 60db. Look at the bigger picture city counsel: close all the nightlife down, or tell the too-old guy to close his window and turn on his fan or dishwasher (which by the way, runs at about 80db).


Brian Smith 5 years, 9 months ago


The city is moving forward with this ordinance because one person has talked them into it, Mark Skully. I copied this from the Keep Steamboat Cool Facebook page (shortly after he stated his opinion, he disliked the page. Apparently he didn't want to hear others opinion). "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." So because of one place and one complainer, the city is moving ahead with an ordinance that WILL sooner or later effect the other establishments he mentioned and probably even the new one that is going into Howelsen Place on Yampa.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

Well, with background noise at 70 dB for so much of downtown, it is no longer a question of complying with 60dB. These businesses when open can generate 70 dB and not be distinguishable from background noise. And probably need to be at least 5 dB above background noise to be clearly distinguishable from background noise. So the City's own data pretty clearly nullifies citing anyone downtown for noise levels below 75 dB.

From the complete list of sound samples in the CC's meeting packet, Boathouse and Sunpies are noisier when closed than when open. Both have background noise of 70+ dB. And Butcherknife Creek by the Ghost Ranch door is 69.1 dB.

Overall, it would appear the true source of the louder noises are people being outside making noise.

To me the most telling number was inside residence with windows closed - 40dB. Can there be anything clearer of what the solution should be for the neighbors that don't like noise? Shut the windows!


1999 5 years, 9 months ago

well well...this is interesting...I wonder if Howelsen Place is simply trying to run other bars and restaurants out of Business in favor of the bar they are opening????


Howelsen Place Welcome to the neighborhood Carl's Tavern. If you haven't heard, we've got a great new restaurant moving into Howelsen Place. Carl's will occupy the 3k sq ft space at the corner of 7th and Yampa St. Lot's of windows, killer bar, high-end finishes, and plenty of outdoor seating. This is going to be sweet! Look for a grand opening sometime in mid August.


bandmama 5 years, 9 months ago

So, 55-60 decibels. Ok, as long as groups of people enjoying the downtown experience dont speak any louder than a normal converstational level and stand no more than one meter apart so they can be heard over the traffic, everything will be just fine, right?


mmjPatient22 5 years, 9 months ago

Just to give everyone some vague reference to reality......

Environmental Noise Weakest sound heard 0dB Whisper Quiet Library 30dB Normal conversation (3-5') 60-70dB Telephone dial tone 80dB City Traffic (inside car) 85dB Train whistle at 500', Truck Traffic 90dB Subway train at 200' 95dB Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 - 95dB Power mower at 3' 107dB Snowmobile, Motorcycle 100dB Power saw at 3' 110dB Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert 115dB Pain begins 125dB Pneumatic riveter at 4' 125dB Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage - Loudest recommended exposure WITH hearing protection 140dB Jet engine at 100', Gun Blast 140dB Death of hearing tissue 180dB Loudest sound possible 194dB


sledneck 5 years, 9 months ago

Wrong about the snowmobiles. They are required to be under 88dB. I'm sure some can be louder but...


mmjPatient22 5 years, 9 months ago

Well thank god only 39 minutes had elapsed where all of those reckless snowmobilers could have misguidedly vamped up the decibels on their sleds. And thank you for so swiftly correcting me on what some website says. I mean, who knows how many people could have been affected by that misinformation?


Oshkoshgirl 5 years, 9 months ago

No matter what a bar does to keep noise inside by closing windows and doors, people by law must go outside to smoke. Sunpies has a huge outdoor lawn, but all smokers must go out front onto Yampa St. to smoke. If a normal conversation is 60-70 decibels, then just 2 people talking outside of any bar will put the bar over the approved decibel level of Steamboat Springs. Carl's Tavern is going to have outdoor seating, so I guess if you have 4 people at a table, it will blow the meter away with the decibel level from 4 people talking. Maybe Mark Scully should be rethinking his idea to shut the Ghost Ranch down. I wonder what he is telling the people who bought the condos that are upstairs from the Carl's Tavern space. There wasn't a bar underneath their condos when they bought them, just like there wasn't a bar across the street - which has been Mark Scully's big complaint.


housepoor 5 years, 9 months ago

Did the Council actually get go out there with the meter an hear what 60 dB sounds like out on an city street?

This guy Scully must be pretty cozy with a few council members to get this through without much of a fight from our supposedly pro business council?


Jeff_Kibler 5 years, 9 months ago

Kinda like somebody buying a home next to an airport then complaining about jet noise. What is the loudest SOUND decibel emitter directly across the Yamper river from Yampa Street? Coal trains. Way back in BCE times (Before Condo Era), crashing on a friend's couch, you could feel the tremor and then a deaf-defying blast of air horn at 3 AM. Louder than an Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert!

Here's an Australian view of decibels:

And they included Fletcher-Munson curves! That's what the loudness button on your BCE Marrantz receiver is all about.


pitpoodle 5 years, 9 months ago

I see another well-thought-out "plan" by our esteemed city council. They allow businesses to come in and then either raise their cost of doing business or think up some new regulation to drive them out. Hey, how about a new SBS property tax that will greatly raise business taxes but would allow a sales tax cut for short term tourists. Brilliant.


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