Reporting code violations

The city of Boulder is changing the way it enforces some violations of municipal code. To report a noise violation or a nuisance party, call Boulder police at 303-441-3333. To report any other violation of a city code, contact the Environmental and Zoning Office at 303-441-3239.

City codes

The Environmental and Zoning Office uses certified law-enforcement officers to handle violations of municipal codes. Here's a look at some of the ordinances they focus their efforts on:

Compost pits

If you have a compost pit in your yard, it's your responsibility to make sure it doesn't create a nuisance, such as attracting animals and insects.

Graffiti

City regulations require landlords to remove graffiti from their properties within three business days after notice by the city.

Housing

The city sets minimum standards for equipment and facilities to address proper plumbing, heating, lighting, ventilation, fire safety and maintenance.

Noise

The city has three noise regulations. "Disruption of quiet enjoyment of the home" prohibits loud behavior that disrupts neighbors in their own home. "Unreasonable noise" applies to amplified sounds after 11 p.m., loud car stereos on public property anytime, limited construction activity between 5 and 9 p.m., use of lawn maintenance equipment between 9 p.m.


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and 7 a.m., car alarms lasting more than 5 minutes and other similar noise. "Excessive sound levels" is applied to any loud noise that exceeds 55 decibels between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., lowering to a maximum of 50 decibels after 11 p.m.

Nuisance parties

The city makes hosting or attending a party that is a nuisance to the neighborhood illegal. A nuisance includes noise, alcohol violations, urinating in public, littering, trespassing and other violations.

Occupancy

The city's occupancy regulations allow no more than three unrelated people to live in most residences. In condominiums and apartments, no more than four unrelated people are allowed to live in each unit.

Sidewalk snow removal

The city code requires property owners and residents to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice by noon the day following a snowstorm.

Smoking in public places

Smoking is prohibited in all buildings open to the public, including places of work, restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars may provide a separate smoking area with certain restrictions.

Smoking vehicles

Boulder's "visible emissions ordinance" prohibits gasoline-powered vehicles from emitting any visible pollutants. Diesel vehicles may emit visible smoke not to exceed 30 percent opacity for 10 consecutive seconds.

Sofas

Upholstered furniture is not allowed for outdoor use or on any porch in the University Hill neighborhood.

Source: city of Boulder

Boulder residents should expect a slower response to complaints about noisy neighbors and house parties this spring, as the police department takes over some ticketing responsibilities from city code-enforcement officers.

Boulder is eyeing an overhaul of its Environmental and Zoning Enforcement Office, the department that's charged with enforcing city codes ranging from noise violations to tracking down cars that have smoky tailpipes.

Because there are only three officers left with the office, a result of retirement and budget cuts, the city will no longer schedule them to work late into the night to specifically target house parties and other noise complaints. Instead, Boulder police will be left with that responsibility.

"It's really, to us, a sensible return to the more traditional function of patrol, which is dealing with complaints about loud parties and all the various offenses that might accompany a loud party," said Sarah Huntley, a spokeswoman for Boulder police.

According to a memo released this week by City Manager Jane Brautigam, the move will likely "result in some community impacts, most notably an increase in response times to some noise complaints."

Code-enforcement officers typically respond immediately to noise complaints, even late at night, since that's their main focus. Huntley said police will respond as soon as possible but acknowledged that other calls might take priority.

She said police officers likely will have to increase their workload to accommodate the volume of calls about noisy parties -- which can reach dozens of complaints in one night during the springtime -- but the department considers the task part of its overall mission.

"We don't consider this to be a burden," Huntley said.

Part of the reason for the change in policy is so the city can evaluate whether it's more efficient to use code-enforcement officers during the daytime for a variety of other issues. The city will also review the overall structure of the tiny department.

Boulder is one of the few places in the nation that gives its code-enforcement officers full police powers.

The city first adopted a noise ordinance in 1970, focusing on loud vehicles that cruised through neighborhoods. In 1978, the city expanded the duties of code-enforcement officers to include targeting visible vehicle emissions. Because that role required officers to pull over vehicles, the city began sending code officers to the Boulder County sheriff's academy to become fully certified peace officers.

That practice continues today, giving code officers the ability to carry weapons, write tickets and arrest people with the same authority as a police officer.

But officials said the role of code officers has changed in recent years to focus mostly on quality-of-life issues such as graffiti and weed control.

"Circumstances have changed," said Maureen Rait, executive director of Boulder's Public Works Department. "They're now dealing more with traditional property complaints, tenant-landlord disputes and those types of issues."

Rait said she's surveying other cities to find out how best to handle municipal code enforcement.

She said the city will see how the new system works this spring and that she will make a recommendation to the City Council in the fall about whether to make more changes.

"This is a testing ground this spring," Rait said. "If we need to make some adjustments, we will."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or urieh@dailycamera.com.