Basalt council turns down noise ordinance

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Basaltines who mow their lawns at 8 o’clock on a hot summer evening won’t be scofflaws after all.

The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday reversed direction from one month ago and snuffed a proposed noise ordinance by a 5-1 vote. The council had voted 6-0 on Feb. 8 to pass the noise ordinance on first reading. It requires two readings to become law.

Mayor Leroy Duroux, who missed the first vote, said the proposal was draconian for a friendly place like Basalt.

“C’mon guys, this isn’t what a small town is all about,” Duroux said. “Why do we have to make laws to have people act responsibly?”

Councilman Glenn Rappaport concurred, saying he would rather see Basalt residents talk to one another if someone is affected by the noise.

Council members were also concerned about the potential effect of the noise ordinance in efforts to create a more vibrant town. Most feared the noise ordinance would harm community vitality.

In last month’s meeting, Councilman Pete McBride warned that cracking down too severely on noise would make Basalt a “fuddy-duddy town.” He was absent Tuesday, but his argument was resurrected.

Councilwoman Karin Teague summed up the sentiment by saying she was concerned about “the lack of noise, not too much noise.”

Councilwomen Katie Schwoerer and Jacque Whitsitt agreed. Schwoerer made a motion to kill the proposed noise ordinance, while Councilwoman Anne Freedman cast the lone vote in support it. She noted in prior discussions that she has suffered the consequences of neighbors that play music too loud too late into the night.

As proposed, the ordinance would have banned most noisy activities after 7 p.m. That would have included the use of lawn mowers, leaf blowers and even power tools – in an open garage, for example.

Riverside Drive resident Mike Sims said he understands residents not wanting a backhoe undertaking construction work next to their house at 8 p.m., but banning such activities as lawn mowing was too extreme. He said he often waits to mow until late in the evening during the heat of summer.

The proposed ordinance would have allowed bars and restaurants that feature live music to play until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Shane Vetter, owner of Fat Belly Eats, a restaurant on Midland Avenue, told the council the proposal would make it more difficult to get his restaurant established. He opened this winter and wants to offer live music in the summer to help attract customers.

Vetter said he is trying to be a good neighbor, such as installing soundproofing inside the restaurant to muffle the music. Residents in the Hill District above Midland Avenue have said music from downtown bars is sometimes a nuisance for them.

The council urged bar owners to work with residents whenever they call with complaints about noise so that the town doesn’t have to get involved.

The council did hold the town government to a higher standard. It vowed not to run the street sweeper in early mornings even though the noise ordinance failed.