The Aspen City Council unanimously approved changes to the city’s noise ordinance Monday with little participation from the public.
The revised ordinance will result in two extra hours for the 65-decibel daytime-noise limit in the downtown core, extending the cutoff from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. After that, the limit drops to 60 decibels until 7 a.m. Additionally, noise readings during complaints will be taken at the affected party’s property, instead of at the source’s property line.
The changes take place 30 days after approval.
Resident Mari Peyton, who lives in an apartment on the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall, was the only member of the public to speak. She said the council’s initial proposal — which called for an around-the-clock noise limit of 65 decibels — didn’t take into account that there are “ordinary residents” in the downtown core, not just wealthy penthouse owners.
The approved changes stem, in part, from a dispute that played out in Aspen Municipal Court in January between the Aspen Brewing Co. and downtown penthouse owners Michael Sedoy and Natalia Shvachko. According to court proceedings, the couple phoned police 23 times between late December 2012 and early September to complain about sounds coming from the East Hopkins Avenue bar. Though the brewer received three separate citations from the city, a six-person jury absolved it of any wrongdoing.
“Rather than disregarding the well-being of all the citizens who live in the downtown area, consider both sides,” Peyton said.
Councilman Adam Frisch said he is still supportive of a “louder, longer, livelier” Aspen, the revised ordinance is a good start, and he hopes the city can continue to make it more flexible.
Councilwoman Ann Mullins said it’s much wiser to have some portion of the night reserved for lower decibels. She added that the proposed changes put Aspen in line with other similar communities. Aspen’s noise ordinance is now identical to Steamboat Springs’.
Councilman Art Daily said, “these are responsible changes for now,” which increase the vitality in the commercial core.
Mayor Steve Skadron pointed out that nothing is written in stone, and should the changes not work, the ordinance can be revisited in the future. The official vote was 5-0 in favor of the revisions.
Decibel units are recorded on a logarithmic scale, and a 5-decibel increase equates to a 41 percent increase in perceived loudness. A 10-decibel increase equates to double the loudness, according to the Environmental Health Department.