Patrick L. Phillips: Noise balance needed
April 13, 2011
Steamboat Springs — 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