Winthrop’s limit on live music after 10 p.m. may get some tweaking — or not — as the Town Council continues to discuss possible changes in the existing noise ordinance.
At their regular meeting last week, some council members indicated they would at least be open to discussing later hours on a restricted basis. Others said they would like to see music curtailed at 10 p.m.
The noise discussion originated several weeks ago after complaints about live music at downtown venues after 10 p.m. At a recent meeting, the Town Council adopted increased fines for violations of the noise ordinance, and agreed to continue reviewing it.
During the public comment period at last week’s meeting, Will Menzies — drummer for the popular Methow Valley-based band the Bitterroot Beets — presented a petition that he said included 150 signatures of town residents and non-residents. The petitions asks that the council consider extending the music cut-off to 11 p.m. on Saturday nights between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, about 15 days a year.
Menzies told the council that the petition was “meant to start a dialog around a compromise.”
Later in the meeting, Mayor Sally Ranzau presented her draft of a revised noise ordinance, with the goal of making it more simple to understand and enforce. “I’m asking for feedback and suggestions on how to proceed,” the mayor said.
Ranzau said that ultimately, any potential changes the council agrees on would have to be reviewed by the town attorney, Scott DeTro, and by Marshal Doug Johnson.
Ranzau’s proposal included a provision that a noise violation could be anything the causes a disturbance “heard outside a 50-foot radius.” Exceptions would be considered for regularly scheduled community events at town-owned facilities, or events requiring special permits.
Council member Kirsten Vanderhalf said 50 feet is not enough and suggested that the existing 100-foot radius be retained. Council member William Kilby said he supports the current 10 p.m. shut-off for live music. He and Ranzau noted that they must answer to the town’s residents who elected them.
Council member Joseph O’Driscoll said he would be open to extending the cut-off to 11 p.m., but worried that music providers would “fudge” past that deadline the same way they occasionally do against the 10 p.m. deadline. “People keep pushing the envelope,” he said.
Council member Ben Nelson said that an 11 p.m. exception might be made for special events. He also noted that the town relies on sales tax revenue, and hotel and motel occupancy taxes, that are generated by visitors.
Council member Bill McAdow said that “I’m leaning towards 10 p.m.”
O’Driscoll reiterated the need for what he called a “common sense” approach to how the noise ordinance is applied, and adhered to. “If a kid is playing a clarinet [downtown] at noon, we’re not going to cuff and tase him,” O’Driscoll said. He said the council needs to hear from more people and “look for possible compromise.”
Ranzau said the council’s discussions will continue.
The new fine for a first offense (a “civil infraction” in ordinance language) is $250. Repeated infractions will bring higher fines: $500 for each individual, subsequent violation. The ordinances’ previous language called for a first-infraction fine of not less than $25 and not more than $50. Subsequent violations were assessed at twice the original fine, not to exceed a total of $500.