The Town of Telluride adopted several drone regulations during its recent council meeting. The final reading of the proposed ordinance took place at the April 18 and subsequently became law.
The new rules require drone users to be approved by the town or private property owners before flying over respective spaces. The regulations also prohibit endangering wildlife and people, and operating a drone in a reckless manner. Additionally, drones cannot be flown near people or wildlife not directly involved in the operation.
Operators cannot fly a drone if under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or a controlled substance; operators also cannot have preexisting mental or physical conditions that would interfere with safe flying.
The rules, including gaining proper approval, apply to locals and visitors alike.
Town Manager Greg Clifton said that complaints from citizens and visitors regarding drones in public spaces led to the discussion and formulation of the rules.
“There were numerous complaints that drove this process to begin with. Many of which surfaced last summer,” he said. “…A lot of complaints coming in from citizens and visitors in the public spaces like Town Park, the trails, Valley Floor, that sort of thing.”
Clifton referred to an incident last summer when a drone appeared to spook a herd of elk on the Valley Floor during filming for a promotional video. Harassing wildlife is a crime, but the operator was not penalized.
“That (incident) raised a lot of concern,” he said.
Initial discussions were held in early March before the first reading of the then-proposed ordinance.
Town Attorney Kevin Geiger outlined current federal regulations and concerns over drone operations in a Powerpoint presentation during the March 7 council meeting.
“Only a federally licensed pilot is permitted to fly a drone for commercial purposes,” he outlined in the presentation.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board oversee the use of drones, but regulations for drone enthusiasts are “generally nonexistent,” which puts the onus on local governments, Geiger said during the presentation last month.
When it comes to harassing wildlife, he said drones make a sound reminiscent of bees, which can scare animals.
Geiger is out of town and was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Clifton noted that there were several concerns from drone enthusiasts during the discussion and ensuing process.
“There were a few emails that came in during the ordinance process,” he said. “A lot of the emails were based upon the argument that the town was overreaching and going too far in regulating drones.”
While the new drone regulations may not sit well with some, Clifton added that the town will be putting together a “dos and don’ts” list regarding the flying of drones in Telluride. It will be made available online and as an informational flyer.
“It’s not an outright prohibition on drones, but there is an approval process,” he said. “…The intent here is not to just get heavy handed with people and issue citations.”
Possible penalties include fines, drone impoundment and deactivation.
The town adopted a new license process regarding the storage of rental bikes in public rights-of-way at the recent council meeting as well.
Much like the outdoor dining ordinance, rental bike business owners must acquire a license if they would like to store bikes on town streets. Owners must pay per square foot for the space. The annual fees are $6 per square foot along Colorado Avenue and $3 per square foot elsewhere.
“It’s not a revenue generator at all,” Clifton said. “The only reason for the fee or the rent is to formalize the process.”
During previous discussions with rental bike business owners, Clifton explained there was a lot of positive feedback.
“Everybody was like ‘Of course, why don’t you do that,’” he said. “There was no opposition to it whatsoever.”
The town will implement the new process right away, according to Clifton. Rental-bike business owners must acquire the licenses now; moving forward, the license deadline will be Feb. 1 annually.