Basalt council making noise about designating quiet times
December 21, 2010
BASALT – Basalt has the reputation of being a quiet little town, and now it will have the regulation to back it up.
The Basalt Town Council recently signed off on key provisions of noise regulations aimed at limiting everything from music blaring from stereos late at night to landscapers working early on weekend mornings. The new language for the town code will be drafted by the planning staff then brought back to the council for a formal vote early next year.
While full details are yet to be fleshed out, the language will give the town teeth to regulate noisy activities before 8 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Separate regulations are already in place to deal with noise from construction sites.
Town staff surveyed council members earlier this year to find out what gets under their skin.
“The results from that survey indicate that council generally feels that the noise of leaf blowers, weed whackers and car alarms were ‘extremely intrusive’ throughout the community,” says a staff memo.
However, the council stopped short of banning leaf blowers despite obvious dislike of the noisy contraptions by some members. Council members Pete McBride, Katie Schwoerer and Karin Teague spoke in favor of good old-fashioned raking. Mayor Leroy Duroux said he uses a leaf blower twice a year on his vast lawn because it saves so much time compared to raking. He said he would “hate” having that ability taken away from him.
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Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt said a ban on a specific piece of equipment seemed excessive. Some people use noisy lawn mowers but the town isn’t considering making those machines off limits, she said.
The ultimate fate of leaf blowers wasn’t sealed. Councilman Glenn Rappaport said passing noise regulations with specific hours for quiet times should be sufficient and act as “a shot over the bow” that forces compliance.
As a blanket statement, the proposed code language says, “It is unlawful for any person to make, continue, create, or cause to be made any loud or unnecessary noise within the Town limits which could adversely affect the comfort, health or safety of others within the Town limits.”
That will leave some subjectivity, by design. Town staff recommended that the council avoid new rules that set specific decibel thresholds. That would require too much training and staff time for enforcement, the staff argued. The council concurred.
Instead, the staff advised adding language to the existing town code that better defines the rules on loud music. The proposal prohibits a person in their home from playing music “in such a manner that interferes with the ability for surrounding property owners, tenants and inhabitants to enjoy the property on which they reside, work, or operate.”
There are exceptions for the two downtown business districts and for special events.
New language will also place tighter restrictions on use of equipment and activities that don’t require a building permit. For example, the do-it-yourself handyman won’t be able to fire up a table saw in the garage before 8 a.m. on a Sunday. Workers for a landscaping or property management firm won’t be able to use a leaf blower on a weekday morning before 8.
Violating the noise code will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine.
While on the topic of noise, the Town Council and staff decided the government must practice what it preaches. Some residents have complained that street sweepers roll through too early in the morning, rousing them. Town officials vowed they will be more sensitive.