Snowmass Town Council passes mandatory mask ordinance, establishes three village mask zones

Snowmass Town Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance Monday that establishes three mandatory mask or face covering zones in Snowmass Village.

The zones, which go into effect immediately, include the Snowmass Mall from Fall Lane north to Daly Lane and from the bend where Brush Creek Road transitions into Carriage Way east to Fanny Hill; all of Base Village, including the entrance area of the Viceroy Snowmass Resort; and both the Snowmass Center and Town Hall areas, including the Brush Creek roundabout connection to Base Village.

As presented by Town Attorney John Dresser, Town Council directed staff to draft the mandatory mask ordinance to create consistency across Pitkin County, better aligning Snowmass’ mask requirements and regulations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 with those already established by the city of Aspen and reinforcing the current Pitkin County public health order.

“We’re just reinforcing the message that much more I think with this ordinance,” Councilman Bill Madsen said.

The emergency ordinance requires people to wear face coverings at all times when they are within the mask zones, regardless if they’re inside of a building or outside. That means masks must be worn on all streets, sidewalks, trails, in public parking lots, playgrounds, and inside public and private buildings or facilities within each zone, the ordinance states.

Face coverings — defined by the ordinance as a “uniform piece of material that securely covers a person’s nose and mouth and remains affixed in place without the use of one’s hands” — are also required in any indoor or outdoor space in the village where people cannot maintain safe social distancing of 6 feet or more from others they do not live with, like when passing someone on a narrow trail or sidewalk.

Violation of the village’s mandatory mask requirements could result in a $50 fine on first offense; a $100 fine on second offense; and/or a summons to court for any subsequent offenses, the ordinance states.

However, people who are younger than the age of 2, who work in an office and do not have any face-to-face interactions with the public, who are in a vehicle alone or with members of their household, who are eating and drinking while seated at a table in a restaurant, or whose breathing would be impaired by a face covering due to an existing health condition are all exempt from the Snowmass mask zones and ordinance.

And at the special council meeting Monday, Snowmass Police Chief Brian Olson requested an additional exemption that would align with current state level face covering rules and requirements.

Olson asked council to exempt public safety officials and first responders from the emergency ordinance as well because he said there are times when these officials need to clearly communicate with the public, which can be difficult to do with a mask on.

“I’m not advocating that we don’t support wearing masks, we wear our masks all of the time for our own protection,” Olson said. “But there are times when you’re trying to articulate direction whether it be in a crisis or not and that’s hard to do through a mask sometimes.”

Council members recognized and agreed with Olson’s request and asked him how he feels this ordinance and its enforcement will impact Snowmass police officers.

Olson said he thinks the ordinance is going to be extremely difficult to enforce, especially with the village as full as it is for the summer and the ongoing detour and traffic issues related to the Brush Creek Road water line replacement officers are managing, but that Snowmass Police will do its best.

“(Snowmass Village is) as full as we can be and that just demands our time from all kinds of angles and so I’ll be honest, this will be difficult to be Johnny-on-the-spot with where we are,” Olson said. “But like I said, we’ll do our best.”

Olson also said he feels in recent weeks there has been strong compliance with the county’s current mask requirements and that recently police haven’t been called to any situations where someone was “completely obstinate” about wearing a mask.

Regardless, Town Council acknowledged the high level of community spread taking place within Pitkin County and asked town staff to look into placing additional signage at popular trailheads and around the perimeters/premises of each mask zone to further reinforce and remind people to cover their faces while in the village.

“To tell you the truth I don’t like these kinds of ordinances, I think it’s everyone’s responsibility (to wear a mask),” Mayor Markey Butler said of the emergency mandatory mask ordinance on Monday. “But that’s not what all of our businesses are experiencing and we as elected officials are responsible for the safety and public health of our community.”

Council passed the emergency ordinance in a 5-0 vote. The ordinance and established mask zones will be in place through Nov. 10 unless repealed or extended by council.

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