Changes to the noise ordinance approved at the last Bend City Council meeting were reaffirmed in a second vote on Wednesday night.
The changes were welcomed by live music lovers and music venue owners. First offenses for violating the city's noise decibel levels will now be $250 instead of $750. Sporting events are now exempt from more stringent decibel level rules that go into affect at 10 p.m. And police are now required to use decibel meters before issuing citations to commercial businesses.
Despite approving these changes, councilors cautioned that they will be watching closely to see how they play out over the summer. Some councilors said they want to see a more robust and renewed discussion in the fall.
"This is a temporary fix," said Councilor Doug Knight, "one that will take us through the summer."
City Manager Eric King added that it's critical for citizens to think of calling the police about noise only if other efforts to deal with the nuisance do not work. The majority of livability issues in a neighborhood should be dealt with "neighbor to neighbor" with enforcement being a last resort, he said.
OFF-LEASH DOG RULES SOFTEN
In good news for escapist dog owners, the council also did away with a citation for the first time officers find a dog off-leash.
In the past, when a dog was picked up by animal control, an owner had to go to the police department to get a ticket before going to the Humane Society to pick up the animal. Later, they would need to attend municipal court and pay a fine for the off-leash animal.
On the recommendation of Police Chief Jeff Sale, the council did away with the first time offense.
People must still go to the station to pay impound and boarding fees and then go to the Humane Society to collect their animal.
COUNCIL WILL REOPEN
Citizens who want to see building heights near the Deschutes River in downtown Bend remain capped at 35 feet will have the chance to say their piece at a future meeting.
Earlier this spring, the council approved a change to the city code allowing the owners of five lots on the westside of Brooks Street to apply for a variance to the 35-foot cap on building heights there.
Previously, the rule for these lots was that there could be no variances to that 35-foot cap in order to keep building heights low near the river. But a majority of councilors felt this was unfair to these property owners and approved the recent change.
Knight said he may have made a mistake in that judgment and would like to see the discussion reopened. He, Mark Capell, Sally Russell and Jim Clinton all approved taking another look. Scott Ramsay and Jodie Barram voted no, saying, again, that this is not fair to these property owners.
NEW SEWER LIFT STATION MEANS MORE DEVELOPMENT
The council also paved the way for more development on the westside after approving design work on a new sewer lift station near McKay Park. Lack of sewer capacity is a major economic development issue throughout the city, according to officials with the city and business advocacy groups.
This new sewer station, called the Colorado Lift Station, was one of several key projects picked out by an 18-person sewer advisor committee last fall. That committee is charged with finding specific, immediate solutions to the city's very acute sewer issues.
The trick for the city will be to make improvements that are affordable and critical right now, but would be adaptable enough that they could be incorporated into bigger, more permanent fixes later.
"I'm in favor of whatever design effort we could make at this time that would introduce flexibility," said Knight.
The council will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5 at 710 NW Wall St. in downtown Bend across from McMenamins.