Steamboat Springs:  Increase in Mixed Use Buildings Brings Noise Issue to Forefront.

Steamboat Night Life
Steamboat Night Life

The opening of the popular music venue, the Ghost Ranch Saloon, a couple of years ago combined with the completion and occupancy of some of Old Town’s most upscale condominium units in Howelsen Place across the street from the Ghost Ranch Saloon bubbled up a noise concern last summer. The noise ordinance issue has been debated (hotly at times) ever since with many residential owners supporting a noise ordinance that decreased allowable noise, while entertainment and mixed use venues emphasized the need to allow entertainment acts to play their music as they always do. Further complicating the issue was the lack of a clearly defined legal enforcement structure to penalize those in violation of any ordinance in place. In the past five years, mixed use development projects have dominated downtown Steamboat Springs with the Victorian, Olympian, Alpen Glow and Howelsen Place housing both residences and businesses, and redevelopment plans for the Steamboat Ski Area mountain base being skewed toward mixed use venues. It’s not a revelation that visitors prefer restaurants, nightlife and retail stores close to their lodging. And it’s also not surprising that both permanent and part time residents bristle at the entertainment volume they welcome when they’re somewhere else on vacation.

Downtown Steamboat Springs
Downtown Steamboat Springs

Healthy and vibrant communities are likely to have ample mixed use development which ties in not only to a healthy local economy, but also to a healthy local real estate market. It’s all connected and co-dependent. The problem lies in that many primary and secondary residential home owners are seeing the buffer decrease between their residences and the newly constructed noise producing venues. And they don’t like it.

So what’s the answer? Well, it seems to be work-in-process. First, after multiple public forums and Steamboat City Council hearings, a new ordinance was recently passed. It raised the allowable noise in commercial areas from 11p.m. to 7a.m. to 60 decibels (from 55), but there’s now an enforcement structure with escalating fines for any repeated offenses.  And right on the heels of this new ordinance is the consideration of amending the building codes to make new construction less susceptible to noise. As with any issue this polarizing among constituents, the Steamboat City Council has already scheduled noise ordinance reviews in 3 month intervals to see how everything is working.  So is everyone happy?  Of course not, but change and growth almost always comes with a little angst and frustration.

The important thing is that the need to grow and change is being addressed, and guess what…we’ll get better at it with each real estate project and transaction. Builders and developers will proactively plan for ways to be more sound-neutral and real estate agents will proactively discuss with their buyers the trade-offs of living in close proximity to mixed use venues. No one likes unwelcome surprises, and with all the noise around the noise issue, only someone with their head in the sand won’t bring it up for discussion if they are buying, developing or selling real estate in Steamboat Springs, CO.

It’s not like we welcome any comparisons to Aspen, but in this case we’re in the same proverbial  boat. They too have a 60 decibel noise ordinance, and like us folks in Steamboat they’re struggling with the same downtown noise issues. So here we are, two high end ski resort towns with downtown areas striving to offer quality, live entertainment, and like one Aspen pub owner questioned, “Do we really want to put a damper on a healthy crowd on a slow Monday night in downtown Aspen?” “That wouldn’t make sense to me, from a business perspective.”

As a real estate agent in Steamboat Springs, I counsel my clients looking to purchase in multi-use venue dense areas to very carefully consider the environment within close proximity to their property lines. If their next door neighbor looks like a bar, and sounds like a bar at 6:00p.m., it will sound like a bar on steroids at 11:00p.m. So do your due diligence, and while you’re at it, you may reconsider that cute condo across from the best breakfast place in town if you like to sleep past 7:00a.m.

—For more information on real estate or questions regarding Steamboat Springs real estate or renting a home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, feel free to call Charlie at 970-846-6435 or write me an email at: