Town leaders gearing up for the year of new laws
The Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees is on the attack against loud noise, newspaper notice requirements, prohibited animals and the old ways of doing business.
Last week, the board held a lengthy public workshop and proposed four new ordinances. “This is the test year for new ordinances,” said GMF attorney Matt Krob, in explaining the board’s new reform-oriented philosophy. That could be an understatement, as the town government has never entertained so many new law changes in recent memory.
Out of the lineup of new proposed laws, the most contentious could deal with noise, as elected leaders are trying to end their former role as property owner referees and a ‘he said, she said’ scenario, with no realistic enforcement regarding this issue. Under the new plan, the town has established decibel levels that track actual noise concerns, once complaints are made.
Krob compared the new proposed system to that of speedometers in cracking down on traffic violators. “It’s like speeding. It would make enforcement less of a nightmare,” he explained.
Krob said the town was trying to strike a balance between people who work and live here, and to recognize the fact that the town will have festivals and many events in the summer.
Currently, Krob said the regulations on the books now are stuck with the subjective opinion of what constitutes excessive noise. “That is too loud,” said Krob, in describing the current subjective stance taken by officials and property owners.
The new law sets specific decibel levels for residential and commercial parts of the town for time periods between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and in the evening and early morning hours. It also requires readings to be done by a designated sound level meter at a distance no less than 25 feet from the possible infraction area, and not to occur during windy periods.
The plan got mixed reviews at a public meeting last week, with some questioning the sound levels proposed. Others wondered if the town is taking a tough enough stance.
GMF Marshal Tim Bradley said the proposed ordinance was based on research from other municipalities.
The marshal was asked about noise complaints he normally receives. He noted that this summer has been relatively light in the complaint arena. But in previous years, he cited regular instances of several complaints a week.
According to several local business operators, many of the complaints are made by the same people.
Giving newspapers the boot
As for other new laws, Green Mountain Falls may follow the path of Woodland Park and make the publishing of local ordinances and notices in a designated newspaper a thing of the past. The town may change this practice by just using social media and its website, and by posting them in the post office.
This is part of a new plan to alter the way ordinances are handled. Town leaders are looking for a way to streamline the process so new laws can go into effect at a faster rate without so many hearings. Recently, town leaders raised a few eyebrows by designating The (Colorado Springs) Gazette as its designated newspaper for 2015, despite the fact that the Gazette charges a much higher rate than the ones assessed by local newspapers in the area. The town bucked the trend of using the Pikes Peak Courier as its designated legal newspaper of choice, which it has relied on for decades. Krob cited the Gazette’s daily publishing format as the main reason for this action.
During a discussion last week, several residents complained about this decision. “This is a little disingenuous,” said long-time resident Mac Pitrone. Both he and former Mayor Pro Tem Jane Newberry couldn’t understand why the streamlining of new laws is such a critical matter and maintained that informing the public about new proposed ordinances was more important that setting speed records in approving these measures. And if time was such a critical matter, then the town could always pass an emergency ordinance, noted Pitrone.
“We need to be smart,” noted Newberry.
Under the new proposed law, the town may not use any newspapers, period, and just rely on a news outlet, whether it consists of social or electronic media. However, officials conceded they need to research this issue in more detail.
Town leaders and officials also last week continued their campaign against the old ways of doing business in GMF with a new law that outlines a detailed list of new finance and procurement policies and check writing regulations. GMF Clerk Mary Duval, as she has in the past, continued to stress that the town needs more checks and balances in approving expenditures. She wanted to make sure that hefty spending amounts are approved by the entire board and not just by a trustee liaison. According to Duval, this previous practice created problems.
And as for the touchy issue of prohibited animals in town, local leaders stuck with their ban against owning donkeys, mules, chickens, goats and most animals, other than horses, canines and cats. But at the same time, town leaders opened the door for the restricted use of certain prohibited animals by a special use permit, or by a special request. This will open the door for the Black Bear Distillery, owned and operated by Victor Matthews. Matthews wants to use several donkeys on a limited basis daily as part of the whiskey production process for his artisan distillery that he hopes will become a big tourist draw.
Residents are being asked to review the new ordinances and present possible changes or suggestions to the town clerk.