April 6, 2012

Commissioners OK first reading of noise, medical marijuana ordinances

Apogaea, which drew 1,500 last summer, sees concerns addressed

Linda James

Clarification on noise ordinance

Apogaea Inc. board member Eric Moutz speaks to the Park County commissioners on March 29 about a proposed noise ordinance. He asked whether having an outdoor event permit would be a defense if a violation of the proposed county noise ordinance occurred. County Attorney Lee Phillips said a permit would be a defense for a violation. The first reading of the ordinance took place at the March 29 commissioners meeting. (Photo by Lynda James/The Flume)

Two proposed ordinances, one regulating noise and one regulating growth of medical marijuana on land zoned residential (R), received the first reading and a vote of approval by Park County’s Board of County Commissioners on March 29.

Final reading and adoption of the ordinances is scheduled for April 19.

The proposed ordinances may be found at www.parkco.us under the Land Use Regulations tab.

Noise ordinance

One major change was made to the noise ordinance during the meeting.

The phrase “audible at a residential real property boundary” was used in several sections of the ordinance to define a violation.

In other sections, the phrase “creates a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary” was used to define a violation.

During public testimony, Bailey resident Bart Berger pointed out that because noise is audible at the property line doesn’t necessarily mean it is a disturbance.

Several groups hold summer events, including music events, at Berger’s ranch south of Bailey.

“I hope it (the ordinance) doesn’t create a misinterpretation of how loud is loud,” Berger said.

Berger supported using measurable sound levels in the ordinance to define a disturbance. He said he uses a decibel meter to make sure Colorado decibel limits are followed during events.

Berger said the music is also “staged down” so decibel readings are lower at 2 a.m. than at midnight.

Commissioner Dick Hodges said the board had considered decibel levels but decided against that because most people don’t have meters. Without one, they would not realize when the limit was violated.

Commissioner John Tighe suggested that events on large acreages might have longer hours than in the ordinance, which is 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

“I don’t want to curtail business opportunities,” Tighe said. He suggested that the Planning Department have some flexibility on hours instead of using the proposed ordinance hours.

Interim County Administration Officer Tom Eisenman said each outdoor event permit application is sent to several county departments for review and recommendations. Activities and hours are listed on the permit and may be in conflict with the ordinance if it is approved as written.

Eisenman suggested the proposed ordinance be revised to read that hours would be as stipulated on the outdoor event permit.

Commissioner Mark Dowaliby said he didn’t want to make the ordinance more complicated and harder to enforce by basing the allowable hours for noise on land size.

Apogaea Inc. board of directors member Eric Moutz testified that to get last year’s outdoor event permit, he had met with the Sheriff’s Office to discuss traffic, noise and other issues. The permit needed the Sheriff’s Office approval.

Moutz said if the ordinance was approved as currently written, Apogaea would need to find another location outside of Park County for its summer art and music festival, where music is played until 4 a.m.

Apogaea is a nonprofit organization based in Brighton. Last year, 1,500 attended its festival at the Berger ranch, according to Moutz.

Moutz said the group’s concerns would be addressed if the word “audible” was changed to “noise disturbance” throughout the document.

Commissioner Dick Hodges said the ordinance restrictions would be complaint-driven and that it did not prohibit music after 10 p.m. during the week or midnight on weekends. If someone complained, the volume would need to be reduced but the music would not need to stop.

Hodges said that if no one complained about noise after midnight, then there was no violation.

Regarding noise

Bailey resident Bart Berger testifies at the Park County commissioners hearing on March 29 about the proposed county noise ordinance. He suggested changing the phrase “audible at a property line” to “creating a noise disturbance across a property line” as a violation. Both phrases were used in different sections of the proposed ordinance. (Photo by Lynda James/The Flume)

Tighe moved to change the weekend hours for allowing live music with an outdoor event permit to 2 a.m. That motion failed with a one to two vote.

The commissioners decided to use the phrase “create a noise disturbance across a property boundary” throughout the document to define a violation and to eliminate the phrase regarding sound being audible at the property line.

Moutz asked if Section 6 (b) was still accurate. Section 6 lists defenses to a violation charge. One of several defenses listed is: “Sound was made within the terms of an outdoor event permit issued by the County.”

County Attorney Lee Phillips said that having an outdoor event permit would be considered a defense.

“If people are concerned about the ordinance, please get in touch with the commissioners,” Hodges said.

After the meeting, Berger and Moutz told The Flume that with the one change and clarification by the commissioners on other issues both had raised that their concerns had been addressed.

Proposed Park County Noise Ordinance

Medical marijuana

No one testified and no changes were made to the proposed ordinance regulating the growth of medical marijuana on properties zoned residential.

The ordinance applies to patients and caregivers. Commercial growers are regulated and licensed by the state.

The ordinance prohibits any perception of growth operations outside the structure, limits the size of the space that can be used, requires meeting all building and fire protection regulations, and requires caregivers to obtain an annual county permit.

The proposed ordinance states that both the county and fire districts may inspect a property for compliance after giving notice to the property owner.

“An inspection differs from a search,” Tighe emphasized. He said if the Sheriff’s Office received evidence of criminal activity, a search warrant would still be needed.

Violation of both ordinances is a Class 2 petty offense. If convicted, noise violation fines are $200 per incident. Violation of the medical marijuana ordinance is up to $1,000 each day the violation continues.

Public comment on the proposed ordinances may be made by calling or emailing interim County Administration Officer Tom Eisenman at 719-836-4203 or teisenman@parkco.us.

Written comments may be sent to P.O. Box 1373, Fairplay, CO 80440.

Tax abatement

The commissioners approved a petition for tax abatement by Denver-based Rocky Valley Partners, previous owners of Stone River Ranch in Fairplay.

Golden-based Peak National Bank foreclosed on Rocky Valley for the Stone River Ranch property in 2010. Peak National Bank is now owned by Mutual of Omaha Bank.

The $75,000 tax abatement covers 2008 to 2010 taxes on approximately 190 lots in the subdivision.

The abatement ranges between $100 and $300 for most lots, according to Deputy Assessor Kristy Gould.

Gould said the subdivision had been assessed at a value of $3.2 million. Before foreclosure, Rocky River applied for an abatement saying the property was only worth $1 million.

The Assessor’s Office negotiated the value to $2.5 million.

Lee Phillips, the attorney for Park County, said normally abatements are deducted from the due amount on future years’ taxes.

Since the property had been through foreclosure, Phillips said the money had to be refunded to Peak National Bank because it had paid the taxes.

Commissioner John Tighe expressed concern about the financial impact on not just the county but the smaller taxing entities that will also be required to refund tax money.

The amount refunded by each entity will be based on that entity’s mill levy for 2008 through 2010. Gould said those details weren’t available yet.

Supplemental appropriation

The commissioners approved a $1,000 supplemental appropriation to the 2011 budget under the Debt Service Fund.

This fund is used to pay the bonded indebtedness on the Park County Jail, which is scheduled to be paid off in 2015.

Park County Finance Director Kathy Boyce told The Flume the $1,000 was to pay for the administrative fee on the jail bond.

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