NuisanceNeighbors by xld14276


complaint-letters-to-neighbor pdf

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     Good fences may make good neighbors,
                         but enforcement professionals
               say an      open dialogue is more useful in
                                  resolving neighborhood disputes.

                                                                                                                                               Photo by Larysa DoDz
By Lisa Shumate                                     Sally, a Boulder realtor whose noise dis-   number of times I’ve contemplated
                                                pute with her downstairs neighbor ended         putting on gloves, picking up the pile of
It seems nearly anyone you ask has a tale       up with her tires slashed, took an even         dog poop off my front lawn, placing it
about a nuisance neighbor: raucous par-         more radical step. “I sold the place and        in a handled plastic bag and putting it
ties past midnight, garage bands practic-       moved. I had to get out of there,” she says.    on my neighbor’s front doorknob,” jokes
ing at dawn, junk cars piled up the drive,          Liz Carlock is still toying with her        Carlock, a mild-mannered, but exasper-
barking dogs and thick ugly weeds that          strategy. “I cannot begin to tell you the       ated homeowner who lives in Boulder’s
spread seeds to the neighbors’ nicely                                                           Newlands neighborhood.
manicured lawns.                                                                                    While such creative retribution may
    If your neighbor commits any of the                                                         be fun to fantasize about—if only for a
above scenarios, what can you do?
                                                  In 2005, Boulder’s code                       moment—it’s typically not necessary, say
    “Our tactics ranged from calling the            enforcement division                        local law enforcement agents and conflict
[student] renters’ parents at 2 a.m. to gath-                                                   mediators. With a few calm words, and in
ering on the front lawn with 10 neighbors
                                                    received a whopping                         some cases, a friendly visit from the men
and yanking the [transgressors] out of          3,920 complaints, including                     and women in blue, many neighborly dis-
bed at 6 a.m. to clean up the mess” from                                                        putes can be resolved without court visits,
their wild party, says Tamara Greenleaf,
                                                  998 for noise violations,                     fines, or too many sore feelings.
a marketing consultant in the process of          965 for trash violations,                         “We always recommend that people
moving to Boulder from Portland, Ore.                                                           try to deal with [their disputes] in person,
“We drove the offenders out—finally. But
                                                777 for snow violations and                     before calling in an agency,” says Steve
I’ve been through the wringer.”                  476 for weeds violations.                      DePuy, code enforcement supervisor for
the city of Boulder Environmental and                   WhO YOu GONNa CaLL?
Zoning Enforcement division, which han-
dles trash, noise and weed complaints.                 When you can’t stand your neighbor’s barking dogs, loud
“You have to live next door to these peo-              music, weeds, junk, trash or noise any longer, here’s a list
ple for who knows how long,” so it’s wise              of agencies that can mediate or enforce ordinances.
to try and resolve disputes.                           v City of Boulder Animal Care and Control:
    Nonetheless, when a knock on the                      303-442-4030 ext. 640
door and a verbal plea fail to quell the               v City of Boulder Environmental and Zoning
problem, laws are in place to promote                     Enforcement (noise, weeds, trash): 303-441-3239
civility, DePuy says.                                  v Boulder County Animal Control: 303-441-3626
    For example, Boulder city code requires            v Boulder County Sheriff’s Department 24-Hour
that grasses and weeds be cut and main-                   Line (for residents in unincorporated areas, Lyons,

                                                                                                                                                            Photo by robert o. brown PhotograPhy
tained at less than 12 inches tall; property              Superior and Jamestown): 303-441-4444
owners are mandated to keep their land                 v Lafayette and Louisville 24-Hour Non-Emergency
“free and clear of trash”; and snow must                  Police, Fire and Code Enforcement: 303-441-4444
be cleared from sidewalks by noon the                  v City of Longmont Animal Control: 303-651-8500
day after a storm.                                     v Louisville Police Department (nuisance barking,
    When it comes to noise—the main                       weeds, junk cars): 303-666-6531
complaint police receive about neigh-                  v Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of
bors—local ordinances prohibit amplified                  Boulder County: 303-442-6040
sounds or “yelling and screaming” after                                                             —Lisa Shumate
11 p.m., loud car stereos anytime, and use
of lawn maintenance equipment between
9 p.m. and 7 a.m. (for those neighbors               whopping 3,920 complaints, including                  Doggone-Dirty Business
who earnestly fire up the John Deere at              998 for noise violations, 965 for trash               If your problem is barking dogs or dogs
the crack of dawn on weekends).                      violations, 777 for snow violations and               leaving morning deliveries, city ani-
    The cities of Longmont, Louisville and           476 for weeds violations. Overall, only               mal control officers are the ones to
Lafayette all have similar ordinances, car-          611 summonses were issued—a testa-                    call (those who live in unincorporated
ried out and enforced by community serv-             ment to how well people respond to a                  areas or the towns of Lyons, Superior
ice officers within the police departments.          letter or visit from the police.                      and Jamestown should call the Boulder
For those who live in unincorporated                      “We try to investigate every com-                County Sheriff’s Department). Typically,
Boulder County, the Sheriff’s Department             plaint,” DePuy says. “We go by, take a                the alleged offender is given ample warn-
is the place to call.                                look and ask them to fix the problem.                 ing before police issue a ticket.
    and call they do. In 2005, Boulder’s             But we prefer compliance, as opposed to                   “We try to give people the resources
code enforcement division received a                 summonses. That is our goal.”                         they need to resolve the issue,” says Lisa

                                                                                                                                                            Photos by (from Left to right) greg roLLer, aron hsaio
                                                                                                                                                            anD greg roLLer

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                                                                                                                             Photo by anastasiya maksymenko
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                  Pedersen, spokesperson for the humane                  nonprofit Victim Offender Reconciliation
                  Society of Boulder Valley, which helps                 Program of Boulder County (VORP) offers
                  coordinate animal-control efforts for the              mediation for homeowners throughout
                  city of Boulder.                                       the county.
                      Pedersen says city of Boulder animal                   Typically, a third party checks with
                  Care and Control officers are called out               both neighbors individually to make
                  for roughly 150 noise complaints annu-                 sure it’s safe to bring them together. Then
                  ally. Yet in 2005, they issued just 23 viola-          they all gather in a neutral place and
                  tions for barking dogs, according to court             hash it out.
                  records. By comparison, 615 summonses                      “It’s all about helping people realize
                  were issued for dogs running at large, but             the impact they’re having on the other
                  that also included violations in parks and             person,” says VORP mediator Nickie Kelly.
                  open space.                                            “It’s amazing how much being listened to
                      When a Boulder resident calls in to                can diffuse a conflict.”
                  complain about a barking dog, the owner                    Kelly says people should keep in mind
                  gets a letter, along with tips on how                  that “rudeness” among neighbors can
                  to stop the barking. (They are not told                sometimes be a matter of misunderstand-
                  which neighbor complained.) If it hap-                 ing. She tells the story of a group of neigh-
                  pens again within a year, an officer pays a            bors up in arms about a homeowner’s
                  visit. If it happens again, police may issue           unkempt lawn. Some were crafting a plan
                  a summons to appear in court, but it typi-             to write a letter, but one opted to go over
                  cally takes two neighbors complaining                  there instead. She discovered the residents
                  before that happens.                                   were ill and couldn’t mow the lawn for a
                      Denver-area resident Ken Rappe has                 while, so she did it for them.
                  been on both sides of the barking dog                      “It worked out wonderfully,” Kelly
                  issue. at his former home, two neighbors               says. “They ended up building commu-
                  got together to file a complaint about his             nity, rather than tearing it down.” her
                  barking dog, but they never bothered to                advice for preventing conflicts: Get to
                  talk to him beforehand.                                know your neighbors.
                      When the tables turned and a neigh-                    “So many times we just don’t want
                  bor in his new community tried to enlist               to be involved with people. We’re losing
                  him to file a barking dog complaint                    the fine art of being neighbors,” she says.
                  against another neighbor, he refused and               “If you have the opportunity to meet a
                  instead paid a personal visit. It worked               new neighbor and welcome them to the
                  beautifully. “I don’t believe in calling the           neighborhood, that is probably a good
                  police,” Rappe says. “If you’re angry, put             first step in avoiding conflict.”
                  it off. When you’re calm, just go over and
                  explain what’s bothering you.”                             Lisa Shumate is a freelance writer who
                      For disputes that accelerate beyond                lives in Lyons with nice neighbors.
                  minor gripes over the fence, several cit-                  Editor’s note: This is part one in a two-
                  ies and towns, including Longmont and                  part series on neighborhood disputes. E-mail
                  Boulder, offer mediation services, and the             us your concerns at

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