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Zoning and Code Enforcement - Nuisance Abatement

Zoning and Code Enforcement - Nuisance Abatement

Nuisance abatement is a civil action that can be pursued along with criminal prosecution. The potential outcome of a nuisance abatement action is a corrective, injunctive-type order issued by municipal court. A property owner cannot be deprived of his/her property under this regulation (Chapters 10-2.5: Abatement of Public Nuisances and 12-2: Landlord Tenant Relations.)

For the purposes of this program, "public nuisance" means:

  • the condition or use of any parcel (house, apartment, etc.) where two or more separate violations of the Boulder Revised Code have occurred within a year; or
  • three or more separate violations have occurred within a two-year period, if during each such violation, the conduct of the person committing the violation was such as to annoy residents in the vicinity of the parcel or passers-by on the public streets, sidewalks, and rights-of-way in the vicinity of the parcel.

There are no specific violations or actions that are designated as "public nuisance" acts. Whether or not a violation triggers the nuisance abatement process is a decision left to the responding law enforcement agency. For instance, a trash violation may, in some cases, trigger the nuisance abatement process. In other instances, the problem might be best handled with a municipal court summons.

Why Do We Need A "Nuisance Abatement" Ordinance?

The nuisance abatement ordinance was enacted as a remedy to:

  • Give local law enforcement and the municipal court authority to take civil action to stop properties from being in consistent and repeated violation of municipal laws;
  • Make property owners and tenants vigilant in preventing public nuisances on or in their properties;
  • Make property owners responsible for the use of their properties by tenants, guests and occupants;
  • Provide locally enforceable remedies for violations of local ordinances; and
  • Otherwise deter public nuisances.

This ordinance is one of several options the city may use to respond to repeated municipal violations.

What Is The Process? How does it work?

  1. Following the first violation, written notice of the violation will be given;
  2. Following a second violation within the one year (Aug. 1 to July 31) period, the city will schedule a settlement meeting involving all anyone who might be named as defendants in any nuisance abatement proceeding. Note: The purpose of the settlement meeting is to obtain a voluntary compliance agreement, in which relevant parties agree to take corrective action to abate and avoid nuisance conditions.
  3. If no voluntary compliance agreement is achieved, or if an agreement is achieved but the city determines that a party has failed to comply with the terms of the agreement, the matter may be referred to the City Attorney for evaluation and potential filing of a nuisance abatement action.

History

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009, City Council indefinitely extended a set of amendments (Chapters 10-2.5: Abatement of Public Nuisances and 12-2: Landlord Tenant Relations.) enacted in 2007. The Nuisance Abatement Ordinance now includes the following permanent amendments:

  • Allow state law violations to be used as violations for nuisance abatement - excluding traffic offenses and cases where the property resident is a crime victim;
  • The "emergency off-ramp" to enable fast action, under special circumstances, with the requirement that such cases be initiated by joint action of the City Manager and the City Attorney;
  • The change from the 12-month rolling period, to a defined calendar year, commencing Aug. 1 and ending July 31 of the following year;
  • The “safe harbor” provision so that state law or code violations that are self-reported by a property owner, manager or occupant cannot be counted as nuisance violations;
  • Certified mail notification requirements of violations and any abatement action; and
  • The clarification that owners cannot be penalized for failing to attend a settlement meeting unless they have been invited.

Public Feedback Outreach

The City of Boulder asked for feedback on the nuisance abatement regulations (specifically the 2007 code changes) and resident comments were accepted through Friday, Aug. 14, 2009. Piloting the use of online media to solicit public feedback on the nuisance abatement regulations, staff used the social networking website Facebook, an online survey service called Survey Monkey, the University of Colorado’s e-memo e-mail service combined with a “Student Voice” survey, the city website and stakeholders’ e-mail groups. These tools were used together to virtually “convene” the community stakeholders.

In general, public feedback reflects the philosophical differences that continue to exist across stakeholder groups about this regulation. As a result of this public feedback, no changes are proposed to the regulation at this time other than to extend the sunset provision and the evaluation period of this enforcement tool to Sept. 30, 2012.

The Nuisance Abatement regulations were first enacted in 2002. In 2007, City Council adopted changes to the nuisance abatement regulations. The adopted code changes were implemented and have been in place since that time.

2007 Changes to Nuisance Abatement

The 2007 changes to nuisance abatement included:

  • Allowing state law violations to be used as violations for nuisance abatement - excluding traffic offenses and cases where the property resident is a crime victim;

  • The "emergency off-ramp" to enable fast action, under special circumstances, with the requirement that such cases be initiated by joint action of the City Manager and the City Attorney;

  • The change from the 12-month rolling period, to a defined calendar year, commencing Aug. 1 and ending July 31 of the following year;

  • The “safe harbor” provision so that state law or code violations that are self-reported by a property owner, manager or occupant cannot be counted as nuisance violations;

  • Certified mail notification requirements of violations and any abatement action; and

  • The clarification that owners cannot be penalized for failing to attend a settlement meeting unless they have been invited.

The 2007 amendments were adopted with a sunset date of April 30, 2009, as a way pilot the ordinance changes. At its April 21, 2009 meeting, City Council extended the amendment end date to Sept. 30, 2009 to provide time to reach out to the various resident interest groups and see how the amendments have been working since that time.

 

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