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Revised noise ordinance won’t include commercial exemption

Glenwood Springs City Council has dropped consideration of a noise ordinance change that the Springs Theatre owner says threatened the future of his business.Council last week voted 5-0 to make revisions to the city’s noise ordinance. However, it did away with a proposal that would have exempted commercial activities from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. as long as a reasonable effort was made to contain the noise from those activities.Springs owner John Buxman had objected to the exemption, fearing it would make way for live music next door at the Bayou Restaurant, which owner Steve Beham hopes to open as soon as this week. Buxman believes the music would make it impossible for him to remain in business.While council’s decision helped to ease Buxman’s worst fears, it fails to put to rest the conflicts between Buxman and Beham.”We’re not solving any problems with two businesses downtown right now, and that’s something that’s going to have to be solved,” said council member Larry Beckwith.City attorney Karl Hanlon responded, “Frankly, I’m not sure that in approaching this we should be trying to solve that particular problem.”But the ordinance update also isn’t likely to fully address broader noise concerns in Glenwood Springs. Despite their differences over the live music issue, Buxman and Beham agree that there is a larger problem with noise downtown.”It’s bigger than whether Springs Theatre lasts,” said Buxman.”This had nothing to do with us,” Beham said.He maintains that the proposed commercial exemption wouldn’t have affected his ability to host live music at the Bayou. He said the exemption would have needed to go later than 11 p.m. to be of much benefit. He also believes a live band might have been too noisy for him to be able to contain the noise to the city’s satisfaction under the exemption.To Beham, what is at issue is whether a downtown can become lively and remain quiet at the same time. It doesn’t help that the city allows residential living downtown, he said.”If we continue to build apartments downtown we are going to continue to have noise problems, and we won’t have a vibrant downtown at night,” he said.The city also has taken complaints from the Hotel Denver about residents having trouble sleeping because of late-night music playing at the nearby Roxie nightclub.Buxman believes the noise issue also affects people living in homes at the fringe of downtown. He worries that even the ordinance as passed by council leaves open the possibility of abuses by businesses. That’s because, while doing away with the 18-hour-a-day commercial exemption, council retained the language requiring businesses to make a reasonable effort to contain noise. He considers that to be vague and hard to enforce.”I believe that in an effort to get out of the frying pan they’ve stepped into the fire,” Buxman said of council.Beham also worries about vague language, and has expressed a desire to have the noise ordinance lay out specific, measurable decibel levels that businesses could not exceed.However, city officials say they don’t want to get police involved in taking sound readings, and would rather see parties involved in noise conflicts try to resolve things on their own – something Beham and Buxman say they haven’t been able to do. While some fear that a vague ordinance could force some disputes into court, Hanlon said a jury of Glenwood residents might be best suited for resolving what parties can’t settle themselves.Despite having continuing reservations about the ordinance, Buxman said he believes he is somewhat protected because the revised ordinance would continue to ban noise, including from musical instruments, that is “plainly audible” within 25 feet.The revised ordinance would exempt normal residential noise from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., normal traffic noise that isn’t in violation of other city codes, and noise from city-authorized special events. It also would require a commercial business to submit a noise mitigation plan to the city if it is convicted a second time for a noise violation. The ordinances changes still must undergo a second reading before council before they would take effect.Council members hope the revisions can help put to rest an issue that has dogged the city for years, much longer than the Springs-Bayou dispute.”We’re trying to reconcile living in a very tight area, a tight valley, with competing uses,” said council member Dave Merritt. “Everybody needs to try to play well together.”He said he likes the mix of residential and commercial uses downtown and hopes the ordinance changes can resolve noise conflicts arising there.”Give us a chance to work with it and see how it can go,” he said. Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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