Changes coming to Aspen’s noise ordinance?
Ryan Summerlin April 22, 2014
In response to last summer’s controversy over nighttime noise levels on Hopkins Avenue’s Restaurant Row, the Aspen City Council will consider changes to the city’s noise ordinance at a work session Tuesday.
City staff has presented the council with a number of options, including leaving the ordinance as is, raising the allowable decibel level, extending hours for nighttime noise and/or changing the way police record decibel levels.
The proposed changes stem 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 club. Though the brewer received three separate citations from the city, a six-person jury absolved the restaurant of any wrongdoing.
Moving forward, staff has offered the option of “closed building” sound measurements, meaning police would record levels inside the complainants’ property with all windows and doors shut. A memorandum to the council states that decibel levels inside the Sedoy/Shvachko residence “were well below the current permissible levels of 60 (decibels), while with the windows and doors open the levels were above 65 (decibels).”
“This approach shares the weight of complying with the noise ordinance between residential units and businesses,” the memo states.
Before 9 p.m., the noise limit in the downtown area is 65 decibels. After 9 p.m., it drops to 60 decibels. The council has been asked to consider raising those levels, while also considering moving the “nighttime” definition in the noise ordinance to 10 or 11 p.m.
The memo states that a more flexible noise ordinance would allow for more live music at downtown businesses. At the same time, it could have a negative effect on residential property owners who want to “enjoy their property in a quiet and peaceful manner,” the memo states.
At the conclusion of the jury trial, attorney Lucas Van Arsdale, representing the brewer, said that while the city technically lost, both the city and brewery can claim victory, as the decision set a precedent for Restaurant Row.