Enforcement not expected in first year for most part

The Grand County Commission approved new rules Tuesday, April 20 that limit the noise of vehicles driving in Grand County, including off-highway vehicles.

The rules set objective standards for cars, trucks, motorcycles, OHVs. Cars and trucks rated to carry up to 4.5 tons of weight, including the weight of the vehicle, must meet the same noise standards set for OHVs.

Motorcycle noise levels — both on-highway and off-highway — are already regulated and preempted by federal standards at a roughly equivalent standard.

Before passing the final draft of the ordinance, the commission discussed the weight threshold above which it would not regulate vehicle noise, whether to set a schedule for reducing the noise limits on off-highway vehicles, and how to regulate motorcycles.

Grand County Commission Administrator Chris Baird recommended that the commission reduce the gross vehicle weight rating that the county uses as a cutoff for which vehicles it does and does not regulate with the noise ordinance.

The proposal the commission considered Tuesday had a rating of 10,000 pounds, which Baird said would end up splitting the class of common heavy-duty trucks down the middle. The commission eventually settled on 9,000 pounds.

The commission also decided that it would not set a schedule for lowering the noise standard to which OHVs are held. The commission originally had planned to reduce the noise level it used in stationary tests from 92 decibels to 88 decibels by 2024.

Commission Vice Chair Gabriel Woytek said that the decreasing standard over time, if written into the ordinance, would end up being “counterproductive.” Although the commissioners expressed a general interest in having OHVs become quieter over time, they decided not to write the schedule for having that happen into the ordinance.

Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan persuaded the county not to set a noise level for motorcycles because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already has a noise test for motorcycles, and those that pass it receive a sticker that appears on the muffler of the vehicle.

Besides a preexisting standard, Sloan said that adding an enforcement level on top of the EPA sticker standard would complicate the job from a legal perspective and law enforcement perspective.

Despite the landmark legislation, not all commissioners were confident that the standards would prove to be enough.

“The conclusion I draw […] is that these initial levels, which are defensible politically because they are tracking regulations that other entities have used, there is no guarantee that this is going to make our streets quieter,” said Commissioner Kevin Walker. “We’ll just have to evaluate.”

Commissioners have on the calendar for their second meeting in January to revisit the ordinance after they spend the time until then gathering data and training officers on enforcement. The first year of the ordinance will not see citations given, except in “egregious” circumstances, according to Sloan.

“I want to keep in the year changes even if we end up changing them next year, I would like to really send a strong message to manufacturers to do whatever they can to make these machines quieter because the problem is the noise, not the people driving them. It’s the noise.”

If we find later it’s not meaningful or not realistic, we can change it.