The Basalt Town Council declined Tuesday night to pull the plug on an outdoor television that has irritated neighbors.
The board voted 4-3 not to uphold a finding by its staff that Garrett Reuss’ TV on his rooftop deck at 303 E. Sopris Drive was a violation of the town lighting code. The council members were divided on whether the lighting code was intended to apply to televisions.
“I think we’re making a stretch to call a television a light,” said Councilman Mark Kittle, a former chief building official for the town who said he wrote the lighting code. The intent was to prevent neon signs, he said.
But Councilwoman Karin Teague countered that she felt the code did apply, and she agreed with neighbors that the TV is a visual and audio nuisance.
“I should probably recuse myself from this because I hate TV,” Teague said. She urged the board to uphold the staff position to prevent a proliferation of outdoor TVs.
“I certainly don’t want to create a precedent for outdoor TVs in our little town,” Teague said.
Councilman Rick Stevens, who also served as a mayor in the 1990s, said the town hasn’t done a good job of enforcing its codes.
“We’ve had a tendency over the years to forgive and forget,” he said.
Kittle later expressed frustration about too many regulations.
“I’m getting tired of making rules for every little thing,” he said.
At least six neighbors attended the hearing to urge the council to prohibit outdoor TVs.
“Everybody’s privacy is compromised,” said next-door neighbor Greg Zec. “Simply stated, we don’t want to hear it, and we don’t want to watch it.”
Another neighbor, Donald Roberts, said Basalt should enforce its rules.
“I’ve been here 40 years. I’ve never known anyone who had a TV on their roof,” he said.
The town weighed in on the matter in April after several neighbors complained about Reuss’ outdoor tube. The town’s Technical Review Committee, composed of town employees, ruled April 5 that an outdoor television violates the lightning code. There is a prohibition on lighting that “flashes, moves, flickers, changes color or involves intermittent electrical pulsation.”
Neighbors filed a petition with the town April 17 demanding enforcement of the ban because Reuss didn’t take the TV down. Reuss responded with an appeal of the Technical Review Committee’s decision. The council is the appeal board.
David Myler, Reuss’ attorney, argued that the opposition to the outdoor television was speculative because it had been used so infrequently.
“It’s been turned on once for 30 minutes during the day,” he said.
Myler suggested the town would have trouble enforcing a ban on the TV since it hadn’t been on at night.
Myler also raised some other potential legal challenges to a ban but said what his client really wanted was a “common sense” approach. He urged the council not to uphold the ban but to hold an experiment instead and gauge whether the TV is really a nuisance.
After a debate, Mayor Jacque Whitsitt and Councilmen Herschel Ross and Glenn Rappaport agreed with Kittle that the lighting code didn’t apply to the television. Teague, Stevens and Councilman Rob Leavitt voted to uphold the staff decision to ban the outdoor TV.
The council majority sent a clear message to Reuss that he needed to work with his neighbors to ease the nuisance, possibly with screening. If not, the council will likely take a look at regulations on outdoor TVs.
“I hope the next day will be a conversation in the ’hood,” Whitsitt said.