Questions arise about prohibited noises
Confusion over prohibited noises forced the Crested Butte Town Council to postpone the passage of Ordinance 19 for the third time, prompting a fourth hearing and continuing the process to develop and pass a noise ordinance.
The Crested Butte Town Council continued the November 5 public hearing until Monday, November 19, when town attorney John Belkin, who was absent from the hearing, could answer questions and address concerns about prohibited noises.
Crested Butte mayor Alan Bernholtz said several community members had contacted him about the ordinance since the last hearing, with concerns over prohibited noises. Of particular interest to residents, Bernholtz said, were two provisions addressing electrified noise during the evening—noise that is audible to someone 100 or more feet from the property line where the noise is located.
After reviewing the language of the ordinance, several Town Council members agreed the language was contradictory to the permitted decibel levels the council established at the last hearing, and argued it should be changed.
“We need to have a real level so businesses won’t have to guess. When we have a clause that says ‘audible,’ it’s opening a whole gray area we didn’t want,” Town Council member Ron Chlipala said.
Crested Butte resident and newly elected council member Dan Escalante agreed with Chlipala from the audience and noted that using the word “audible” rather than specifying the agreed-upon decibels in the ordinance could cause problems. “This would allow someone to be, like, ‘I can hear you, now turn it off,’” Escalante said.
Christi Matthews, executive director of Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Escalante and asked the council for clarification if the provisions could be interpreted as an opportunity to stop bars and restaurants from playing music on their decks on Elk Avenue. “To me, this includes amplifiers for bands—am I interpreting it wrong?” Matthews asked.
However, Crested Butte resident Mike Johnson argued the provisions were not ambiguous and were needed to protect residents who lived near the commercial zone.
“The thumping of bass needs to be prevented, and the way it can be prevented is through the prohibited provisions,” Johnson said.
Bernholtz said the provisions were standard provisions of other community ordinances and asked the council if they wanted to make changes to the ordinance or pass it as is.
Town Council member Margot Levy urged the council to pass the ordinance and reminded the council noise was the businesses’ responsibility to mitigate.
“We need to rely on civility and good will—we need to rely on business owners to take measures to prevent blaring music, and we need to rely on citizens not being trivial,” Levy explained. “We need to have faith in the people in this community to work this out in a reasonable way.”
Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker agreed with Levy and said the council could review the ordinance if problems persisted. “You could look at it again in a year if civility does not prevail,” Parker said.
However, council members Leah Williams and Billy Rankin discouraged passing the ordinance for different reasons. Williams said she was uncomfortable with making changes without a lawyer present, while Rankin disagreed with passing the ordinance with “inconsistencies.”
The council voted to continue the public hearing until Monday, November 19.