Extended hours for live music may be in downtown Winthrop’s future — as in next year. But the Town Council has yet to finalize possible revisions to the town’s noise ordinance that would extend the music curfew on a limited basis.
At their meeting last week, several council members indicated a willingness to at least consider a proposal that was earlier offered by local musician Will Menzies: extending the music cut-off to 11 p.m. on Saturday nights between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, or about 15 days a year. Currently the cut-off is 10 p.m. every night.
The noise discussion originated a couple of months ago after complaints about live music at downtown venues after 10 p.m., and has been on the council’s agenda ever since. At a recent meeting, the council adopted increased fines for violations of the noise ordinance.
The council revisited some draft proposals submitted earlier by Mayor Sally Ranzau. The draft retains the 10 p.m. limit on “public disturbance noise,” defined as noise that can be heard outside a 50-foot radius. Ranzau said she had not updated them since the previous council meeting.
Several audience members commented on the issue before the council began its discussion. Menzies reiterated support for the seasonal extension of Saturday night hours, assuring the council that musicians and merchants are not interested in “turning it into a late-night, Chelanesque scene.” Paul Smotherman and Liza Bee Hodgins of the North Cascades Youth Hostel said they also supported the extended hours.
Dylan Mark, owner of a rafting service, said he also supported longer hours for music because it could attract more local as well as tourists. He said he hoped for “a compromise and moving together on a united front.”
Steve Kish, who books musical acts at Old Schoolhouse Brewery and is also a musician in the local band Full Uplift, urged adoption of the 11 p.m. limit to add “an hour of good money-making time.”
“Entertainment is part of life,” Kish said. “Eleven o’clock is fair.” He said OSB shuts down its live music at 10 p.m.
Oori Silberstein, who is a professional mediator, said he thought the seasonal, one-night-a-week 11 p.m. proposal “is a pretty moderate request.”
Winthrop resident Tom Sullivan urged the council to maintain the 10 p.m. music curfew, describing it as a “quality of life” issue. He said the council should also looking into banning “jake brakes” (compression brakes) on big trucks. The town currently has no such prohibition.
Support for 11 p.m.
During the council discussion, council member Kirsten Vanderhalf said the 50-foot nuisance noise limit isn’t workable. “You can hear a harmonica from 50 feet,” she said.
Ranzau agreed that the town should consider banning jake brakes, and also should consider limited the hours that generators can operate. “Just running one for your sprinkler doesn’t seem justified,” she said.
Ranzau said the she worried about the one extended hour for music because “everyone pushes past the boundaries” already.
Council member William Kilby, citing the council’s obligation to serve the town’s residents, said he is satisfied with the existing 10 p.m. limit. Kilby asked Menzies, “are you assuming, if we increase it to 11 p.m., that you would be playing at a louder volume?”
“Abiding by the [nuisance noise] rules is the obvious answer to that,” Menzies replied. “It doesn’t matter what time it is.”
Council member Ben Nelson noted that enforcement of the noise ordinance is complaint-based. “It only takes one person to complain every single time,” he said. “Is it reasonable for one person” to have the much control, he asked. “That scares me,” he said.
Vanderhalf said she would be OK with an 11 p.m. cut-off for one hour a week during the peak tourism season, but added that “buy-in needs to come from the business owners, which we have not seen. It would be good to see that.” Ranzau agreed.
Nelson said he would consider the 11 p.m. deadline. Council member Bill McAdow said he was still undecided. Council member Joseph O’Driscoll was not at the meeting.
Ranzau said she will revise her earlier proposal for further council discussion.
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.
In other business, the council put its final stamp of approval on the requested annexation of an 18.22-acre parcel that Methow Trails intends to purchase and eventually make its headquarters. Methow Trails is buying the property from Vern Gray, and both Gray and Methow Trails had requested the annexation.
Currently, the land on Horizon Flats Road is entirely surrounded by the town, a “donut hole” that, under existing county zoning, could be divided into 5-acre lots. The roughly rectangular property extends east from Horizon Flats Road nearly to Highway 20 across from Pardners Mini Market and abuts an irrigation ditch. The site, a former homestead also known as the White property, currently has a one-bedroom, 1,090-square foot house built in the 1960s, several outbuildings and a log cabin.
Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said the property would be assigned interim B3 zoning (which allows office buildings, shops, parking lots, parks, exercise facilities and single-family dwellings) until a permanent designation can be agreed on.
The council also agreed to extend its lease on a small building on Riverside Avenue used as headquarters for the Town Marshal’s office. The town has leased the building from Jerome and Kim Theil for several years, after the previous site of the marshal’s office — in the basement of Town Hall — flooded one time too many. Rent on the building will be $650 a month.