City wrestling with good, bad noise
August 21, 2002
Aspen may get more lenient in allowing noisy special events, but the City Council doesn’t like the sound of construction on Sundays.
City staffers sought the council’s input Tuesday on what new rules it might like to see in an updated version of Aspen’s noise ordinance, which is now in the works.
The council heard a litany of complaints from citizens – about leaf blowers, 6 a.m. garbage pickup, loud buses and backup beepers on snowplows – but no one registered objections to special events that enliven the resort.
Community events in public parks, on the malls or at the base of Aspen Mountain that involve amplified music routinely receive a noise variance from the city already and rarely generate complaints, according to Jannette Whitcomb, environmental health technician. The variance allows events to exceed established decibel limits.
The council agreed to toss out its current cap on variances – four per locale per year – and directed Whitcomb to draft an ordinance that allows amplified sound at special events until sometime between 8 and 10 p.m. Council members didn’t concur yesterday on how late it’s OK to be loud.
Councilman Tim Semrau advocated 10 p.m. to keep the town from going “comatose” early.
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“This issue, I have some real mixed feelings about,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “I hope there’s some flexibility so that everybody in town isn’t bundled up and in bed by 9:30 each night.”
Council members shied away from trying to regulate noise at private functions. Currently, the city gets requests for noise variances for weddings and parties on private property, but doesn’t really have a vehicle to grant them, Whitcomb said.
The variance can be granted with a special event permit, but typically, the private party doesn’t need a permit, she said.
Council members suggested those types of events should be regulated by neighbor complaints rather than the ordinance.
The council agreed to prohibit construction on Sundays in the commercial and lodging zones; it’s already outlawed in residential areas.
The city gets frequent complaints about construction starting at 7 a.m. in residential areas on Monday through Saturday, but the council was reluctant to push back the start time to 8 a.m., fearing construction workers would come to town later and exacerbate traffic congestion.
“The traffic impact . I don’t know about that tradeoff,” Semrau said.
The noise generated by garbage trucks starting their rounds at 6 a.m. was a problem left unresolved in yesterday’s discussion.
Once a draft of the new ordinance has been prepared, it will come back to the council for formal review.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]