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Police: Excessive noise complaints are 'subjective'

May 15, 2013 Updated: May 15, 2013 at 7:58 am

You can get permission to have a loud party in Colorado Springs.

"Loud," however, has a whole different meaning to a college student as opposed to, say, a homeowner headed to bed at 10 p.m.

Therein lies the problem of permits that don't specify a decibel level, although they do set times for when noise can exceed normal levels. Still, some Colorado Springs citizens say there should be more control, especially near residential areas and at night.

Citizens expressed their displeasure with the volume of Colorado College's "Llamapalooza" end-of-year celebration Saturday, during which police received a dozen complaints within an hour.

CC spokeswoman Leslie Weddell said the college took steps to ensure the festival was within specified parameters, but a resident as far as 11 blocks east of campus called police to complain about the noise.

Colorado Springs Police Lt. Brian Ritz , of specialized enforcement, said noise hardship permits are awarded to applicants on a regular basis, but the conditions are mostly subjective.

"Every event we issue a permit for has an officer assigned to supervise," Ritz said. "It's up to them to decide when a party may be getting too loud, or too rowdy. There are no set regulations or decibel level limits."

The city's noise ordinance states that it is unlawful to make, create or permit an excessive or unusually loud noise, except under and in compliance with a special permit.

The Colorado Springs Police Department accepts noise hardship permit applications for events where any type of sound amplification equipment is going to be used, Ritz said.

"For the most part, we've discovered the system works and people are cooperative," Ritz said.

Organizers of CC's "Llamapalooza" were compliant and kept music and noise within expected levels, according to police. Weddell said the logistics team positioned the stage to have a minimal impact on the neighborhood.

"The sound would be focused inward, toward the campus," Weddell said. "The college obtained a noise permit from the police department through 11 p.m., and the last band ended approximately at 10:40 p.m."

Between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., police received 12 noise complaint calls from residents surrounding CC's campus, according to police records. One caller told dispatch he could hear the DJ yell into the microphone, "We're going all night!"

Ken Rice, 81, lives on the corner of North Franklin Street and Willamette Avenue, a little more than a mile from where the outdoor party was held.

"I called the police to complain about how loud the music was, and they told me they had a permit," Rice said. "But even so, being able to hear it a mile away is excessive."

Ritz said officers supervising the event at CC were made aware of one complaint around 9:30 p.m. and organizers turned the system down. Police records show eight more complaints were received after that, with the last one being logged by dispatchers at 10:44 p.m. from a residence on East Vrain Street.

Callers also reported hearing fireworks, which Weddell and Ritz said were neither planned for nor sanctioned by the college or police. Police did not find anyone with fireworks, Ritz said.

Permits can be immediately revoked if a situation gets out of hand and puts the public at risk, said police spokeswoman Barbara Miller.

Repeated instances of non-compliance can also result in fines and citations, Ritz said.

The Special Events team produces an after-action report following every event noting compliance and overall cooperation, or lack thereof, Ritz said. Such reports are taken into consideration for future permit applications, as is the case for CC's end-of-year celebration, held annually.

"Perhaps 11 p.m. is too late to allow such loud music," Ritz said. "Maybe next year we'll ask them to conclude the party by 10 p.m. We learn from every event because they're all different and nothing is set in stone."

Police can refuse a permit for a cause they deem reasonable, Ritz said, but it's never with the intention of spoiling anyone's celebration.

"There is no political or personal agenda," Ritz said. "We want everyone to have a good time, and we take the rights of the party-goers as much as the residents around them who are affected by the events."

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