Aspen Times Editorial: No-complaint clause lacks teeth
September 10, 2013
The Aspen City Council deserves credit for addressing downtown's noise problem at its Monday meeting, but we view this more as symbolic gesture than actual solution.
The council approved developer John Martin's proposal to scrape and replace a building located at 420 E. Hyman Ave. with a three-story structure that will include a penthouse. But the approval comes with a catch: A "no complaining" clause warns the penthouse owner that living in the downtown core includes the elements of noisy restaurants and bars in the vicinity. Martin has said he supports the clause pertaining to his project.
The no-complaint clause comes at a time when a few downtown penthouse owners have contacted authorities about the noise generated from the bars and restaurants beneath them. The result has been a strained relationship between some downtown residents and bars and restaurants.
Now the city is intervening, but there's no escaping the fact that property owners have rights, and in downtown Aspen, they also have the noise ordinance on their side. There's a 65-decibel limit before 9 p.m. and a 60-decibel limit after 9 p.m.
As well-intentioned as the penthouse clause might be by putting the owner on notice, we doubt it will stop him from exercising his right to complain should he have a change of heart. And though he plans to live in the penthouse and abide by the clause, what if he changes his mind and decides to sell? Will the new owner appreciate the spirit of the stipulation or become another whiny downtown Aspen penthouse owner, phoning police over music and other innocuous noises that help to give the city's commercial center its vitality?
A City Council work session on the noise ordinance is being planned for November. As we've said previously, we hope city leaders conduct a serious discussion on raising decibel levels in the heart of downtown. As it stands, we seriously doubt that a no-complaint clause for this new building on East Hyman — or any future structure the council approves — would survive a challenge in the court of law. You can't stop someone from picking up a phone.
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