OURAY BRIEFS | City Noise Violations: 'Common Sense' Prevails
by Samantha Wright
Apr 18, 2013 | 1812 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY – After a year’s worth of work on the matter, it turns out not much will change regarding the City of Ouray’s noise regulations. 

The topic has been an ongoing matter of discussion since last summer, at which time the City of Ouray’s Community Development Committee  was tasked with investigating ways to possibly revise the code to make the city’s noise regulations clearer and easier to enforce. 

However, after looking at noise regulation codes from other communities, some of which were very specific in regard to allowable decibel levels in residential and commercial areas, council decided at a work session on Monday, April 15, to err on the side of simplicity and allow enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance to continue to be complaint-driven and handled on a case-by-case basis. 

“This obviously is a very difficult thing to handle,” Mayor Bob Risch said after the work session. “Noises are subjective and it is really hard to write a code that describes every situation.”

After considering various scenarios, council members failed to find a way to significantly revise the code that they could all agree upon. And, Risch added, “in evaluating complaints, there really haven’t been that many and most were resolved using common sense and courtesy; it’s not a huge problem based on the record.” 

If anything, after undergoing slight revisions which council did agree upon on Monday, the code will become less specific than it currently is. For example, council agreed to remove specific references in the code to distances at which noise must be considered “objectionable” in order to trigger a legal response. (The current standard states that noise must be considered “objectionable” if it can be heard at a distance of 50 feet in a residential zone, or 150 feet in a commercial zone.)  

“We ended up deleting that and we are encouraging the Police Department to get decibel meters to have an objective way to measure the volume of noise,” Risch said. 

City staffers have been tasked with revising the language of the code pertaining to noise regulations based on the outcome of Monday’s discussion. The revised code will come before council for consideration in the near future. 

The topic of noise regulation came to a head in April 2012 when Paul Sunderland, an attorney and developer of the Story Block condominiums at the corner of Main Street and Seventh Avenue, lodged a complaint with the city against neighboring O’Brien’s Pub and Grill on behalf of himself and other members of the Story Block Condominium Association, alleging that O'Brien's live music violated the city’s noise ordinance which provides that unreasonable noise is a nuisance and therefore prohibited.

At a meeting in May 2012, council voted to renew O’Brien’s liquor license over Sunderland’s objection, a decision that was applauded by over 50 community members who barnstormed the meeting to support O’Brien’s and its proprietor, Jen Greenholt.

Risch said that while there have been other noise complaints besides this most contentious one over the past year, most turned out to be about barking dogs. 

“We reached a consensus that we were going to try to keep the code simple and find a reasonable way to respond to such complaints,” Risch said. “We are encouraged we don’t have a major problem.” 



Bigger and better are the buzzwords promised by Ouray Chamber Resort Association Board of Directors president Tamara Gulde, regarding the second annual Ouray County Mud Festival, scheduled for next weekend (April 26-27) at the Ouray County Fairgrounds, with a kick-off community dance at the Ouray Community Center on Friday, April 26. The Mud Fest organizing committee is hoping for good weather, Gulde told council. But she stressed, it is an “all-weather event” which will go forward no matter what meteorological conditions prevail. Primarily, Gulde said, “We are hoping for lots of mud.” Gulde asked council members to consider volunteering at the event, which will include 4x4 and family activities and is expected to draw hundreds of participants from across the region. “I really encourage you to be a part of this,” she said. “OCRA has put in hundreds of hours. Be there or be square!” 



By a vote of 3-2, with councilors Gary Hansen and John Ferguson opposed, council approved a replat of Hayden View Circle, making one large lot out of two smaller adjacent vacant lots, upon which a large new home will be built in the Ouray Vista subdivision. The matter was unanimously recommended for approval last Tuesday, April 9, by the Ouray Planning Commission. 

Hansen had a philosophical objection to the replat, stating that he has had several contacts with citizens recently who are disturbed by large development in town. “In general there seem to be bigger and bigger places on small lots,” he observed. “There has been a lot of griping, and not just from one citizen.”

Tom Henderson, the president of the Ouray Vista home-owners association, told the Planning Commission last week that he supports the replat of lots. 

During a period of rapid growth in 2005, the City of Ouray imposed a moratorium on new development during which it implemented changes to the city’s land use code to address the permissible size of homes built within city limits.  

City of Ouray Community Development Coordinator Ann Morgenthaler said that applicants Allen and Kelli Cook did not ask for a variance to home size (which is dictated both by the city code and the Ouray Vista plat). The replat doesn’t allow a larger home to be built on the lot, she said, but rather enables the applicants to cover more square feet of their site with a structure than they could otherwise on just one lot.



Council voted 4-1, with councilor Kersen opposed, to donate $1,000 in support of the upcoming Western Slope Rural Philanthropy Days event coming to Ouray this June. Up to 350 participants including 40 funders from the Front Range are expected to attend the annual event, which Ouray won the bid to host last fall. 

Ouray Chamber Resort Association Director Kat Papenbrock, who is on the Rural Philanthropy Days Steering Committee, asked council to consider donating $2,000 in support of the event, stressing that it will show off the city and county as ideal location for conferences. 

Councilor John Ferguson acknowledged that the city will benefit from hosting Rural Philanthropy Days, but admitted he had a “sense of getting bamboozled” because he hadn’t realized that an expected $2,000 donation “was part of the game”.

Papenbrock said that neighboring communities including Gunnison, Telluride and Ridgway have already committed to donating $1,000 apiece. 

Ferguson suggested a $1,000 donation from the City of Ouray as a compromise and “gesture of goodwill”, noting that the city’s general fund “is not flush” and that it is an unbudgeted expenditure. 

By a split vote of 4-1 with Mayor Bob Risch opposed, council went on to vote not to approve a $1,542 grant match to update the Ouray County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan was originally executed in 2008 and needs to be updated every five years.  The request for the grant match came from Ouray County which is responsible for executing the update. Instead of providing a financial match, the city will instead provide an in‐kind contribution from staff.


Council held two special meetings in early April. The first of these, held on April 2, lasted just one minute. At this meeting, council unanimously approved a 60-day extension to the Temporary Liquor Permit previously issued to the St. Elmo Hotel, Inc. due to the fact that the state is unusually backlogged with its processing of liquor license applications. The following week, on April 8, council met in executive session with city attorneys for about 45 minutes to discuss matters related to the Ouray Ice Park and a potential call on the city’s water. 



Among the many additional action items at Monday’s meeting, council also approved financing for the purchase of a new Public Works truck; adoption of a new official zoning map; temporary street closures on Sixth Avenue and Third Avenue related to the Ouray County Mud Fest and FJ Summit respectively; reinstatement of a popular program which offers lodgers year-round pool discount cards for the Ouray Hot Springs Pool which they can then pass on to their guests; and a water lease agreement for the Red Mountain Ditch which allows the ditch’s former owners to lease the water when the city is not faced with a water call.

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