Basalt council flips decision on TV | AspenTimes.com

Basalt council flips decision on TV

The Basalt Town Council pulled the plug on an outdoor TV after all.

One month after deciding that Garrett Reuss' TV on the patio roof of his residence on East Sopris Drive didn't violate the town's lighting code, the council majority reversed direction Tuesday night. The board voted 4-2 to uphold a decision by its Technical Review Committee that the TV was a violation of the lighting code.

"We have a smart, capable staff. I think they had it right the first time," said Councilwoman Karin Teague.

At the Sept. 9 meeting, the council voted 4-3 that the TV should be allowed because the lighting code didn't apply. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt switched her position and became the swing vote Tuesday.

Teague and Councilmen Rick Stevens and Rob Leavitt voted consistently that the TV violated the lighting code.

Councilmen Herschel Ross and Mark Kittle were also consistent, on the other end of the spectrum. They said the TV should be allowed, if Reuss shielded it so it didn't bother his neighbors.

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Councilman Glenn Rappaport voted Sept. 9 to allow the TV. He wasn't at Tuesday's meeting.

Whitsitt didn't explain at Tuesday's meeting why she changed her vote. Outside of the meeting, she said she simply reconsidered.

The TV started creating turmoil in the neighborhood around the 303 E. Sopris Drive last spring. Neighbors complained about the television to the town government. The Technical Review Committee, comprised of town staff members, determined on April 5 that the television violated the lighting code.

Neighbors filed a petition with the town April 17 demanding enforcement action because Reuss hadn't taken the outdoor TV down. Reuss appealed the town's decision to the Town Council.

Neighbors appeared at both the Sept. 9 and Tuesday council meetings to encourage the board to ban the TV. Bob Ward said he lives a short distance from Reuss. The rooftop TV can only be spotted from a few places in his yard, he said, so it won't adversely affect his family's lifestyle. However, Ward said he felt strongly enough about the issue — which he acknowledged "has an element of comedy" — to appear before the council. A rooftop television doesn't belong in the splendor of the Rocky Mountains, he claimed.

"Just the idea is absurd," Ward said.

Reuss attended the meeting and was represented by attorney David Myler, who said they don't believe there is a code violation but they are willing to work with neighbors.

"I don't believe it meets the definition of a prohibited light," Myler said.

The council's vote came after discussion that veered off in multiple directions. At first, the council majority seemed poised to allow the TV if Reuss shielded it to the satisfaction of his neighbors, as reviewed and approved by the town planner. But Town Manager Mike Scanlon said putting a staff member between the squabbling factions would put the staff in too tough of a position. "We'll be back here again," he said.

Kittle argued that the solution should be simple. "You either fully shield it or you get rid of it," he said.

Ross said Reuss and his neighbors should have worked out their disagreement without coming to the local government to sort it out.

"I'm really disappointed," he said. "This isn't Aspen."

Ross questioned Reuss on why he didn't approach his neighbors to try to defuse the situation. Ross seemed to get irritated when Reuss said his neighbors had an open invitation to come to his house to check out the television, but acknowledged he didn't actively seek out a resolution with them.

Whitsitt intervened in Ross' questioning of Reuss. "I don't think we can send Mr. Reuss to timeout," she said.

It was uncertain at the conclusion of the meeting if the town will undertake an enforcement action to make Reuss take down the television or if he will be allowed to seek a waiver to the code to allow the television. Myler said after the meeting he and his client had to discuss their options.

scondon@aspentimes.com