City passes revised noise ordinance
July 20, 2011
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council, by a 5-2 vote, gave final approval to a revised noise ordinance Tuesday that limits allowable nighttime noise in commercial districts to 60 decibels.
The action capped months 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. Some business owners said Tuesday that it will be difficult for them to comply with the revised ordinance.
City Council members Walter Magill and Kenny Reisman opposed the ordinance. They cited their desire for higher decibel levels based on a sampling of readings taking at local establishments that indicated they often weren't in compliance.
The revised ordinance actually increases by 5 decibels the allowable noise 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. The previous ordinance measured the noise at a point 25 feet from the property line of the source of the noise.
The changes impact only those areas of the city defined as commercial zones
Ghost Ranch Saloon co-owner Amy Garris implored the City Council to consider a proposal she submitted that added an "entertainment overlay zone," which would make the allowable noise levels from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. up to 70 decibels in downtown, Ski Time Square and Gondola Square.
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She, other business owners and ordinance opponents said they likely would be in violation of the revised ordinance if allowable noise was capped at 60 decibels.
A survey by the city indicates that 60 decibels of allowable nighttime noise meets or exceeds what is allowed in resort towns including Vail, Aspen and Telluride.
City Council President Cari Hermacinski acknowledged that many noise conflicts were likely the result of Steamboat becoming more of a mixed-use community. But she reminded the audience that the City Council had been working to revise the noise ordinance because residents and businesses in mixed-use areas approached the city about it.
Four residents, including two who live at Howelsen Place across the street from Ghost Ranch Saloon, supported the ordinance.
Violating the new allowable noise level will now result in a warning for the first violation, a $250 fine for the second, $500 fine for the third and $999 for the fourth and subsequent violations. A business found to be in violation of the noise ordinance cannot 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.
Hermacinski said she was comfortable with the 60-decibel level after city staff measured noise levels outside the front of the 100-year-old building that houses Old Town Pub on Fat Tuesday as a live band played inside.
"And they were under the current 55 (decibel) level," she said. "They have a vestibule, windows and doors were closed, but they met the existing ordinance."
In other action, the City Council:
• Approved on first reading with no discussion a lease agreement with SmartWool that keeps the merino wool outfitter in town until 2022 and allows it to expand the terminal building at Steamboat Springs Airport.
• Approved on second reading a non-cigarette tobacco retailers license, which requires that retailers pay an annual fee to sell tobacco products other than cigarettes.
• Approved on second reading an ordinance to extend the commercial rafting season.
• Approved a resolution ratifying the intergovernmental agreement with Routt County to hold a municipal election Nov. 1.
• Recognized Tim and Scott Borden and other volunteers for their work putting on the city's Fourth of July fireworks show.