When CSU sophomore Cody Clow and his housemates chose not to heed the city's ordinance against unreasonable noise and host a loud party at their off-campus residence last fall, they were confronted and ticketed by police.
"I got the ticket," Clow said. "We split the fine, but the ticket has my name on it."
Fort Collins city code describes unreasonable noise as any sound that will "unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life or property." Unreasonable noise is identified at the ticketing officer's discretion.
The penalty for such a violation is a maximum fine of $1,000.
"The police wanted to see all our IDs," Clow said. "They had us pick one to see who got the ticket."
Clow received the ticket, which was later reduced to $325. He was also required to attend an educational workshop organized by Fort Collins Police Services and campus police.
Many students, like Clow, have interpreted the law to be a $1,000 fine per party, but this is not the case. The law, as described in city code Article 2 section 20-32, states each tenant, occupant or owner can be held responsible for a noise violation.
"The law says a 1,000 fine per defendant," said Fort Collins Assistant City Attorney Teresa Ablao. "The law has not changed."
It seems this popular misconception is a result of how the police and courts chose to enforce the ordinance.
"If the defendants are cooperative, the punishment will be less severe," Ablao said. "Cooperation is always helpful."
Students charged with a violation of the city law are also in violation of the university code of conduct. Students in violation of the conduct code are required to attend Party Partners, a party education workshop designed to inform students of the risks and consequences of hosting a party.
FCPS Officer Kelly Weaver, a Party Partners instructor, said although noise disturbances are the number two complaint among city residents, the police department does not focus on ticketing as many students as possible but instead on ensuring the comfort of the neighborhood.
"We are problem solvers," Weaver said. " We aren't there to hammer as many students with tickets as we can; we're there to solve a problem and work with students for the good of the city."
Cooperation is key in shaping an officer's judgment at a social gathering, Weaver said.
"We want as few people in the system as possible," she said.
Although the law works as a deterrent to many students, city officials say the ordinance is not designed to stop underage parties involving alcoholic beverages.
"The law is primarily enforced to help preserve the quality of the neighborhoods," Ablao said. "We have completely separate laws to deal with underage drinking and parties."
Nonetheless, the law is keeping some students from hosting large parties. Most students don't need to be told twice.
"If we get another noise violation, it's a $1,000 fine and a possible eviction," Clow said. "We keep (the noise) down so we don't get another ticket."
Many students, however, feel the ordinance is taking it too far. Some have gone as far as protesting the ordinance.
Heather Rice, a junior social work major, and Mike Floren, senior chemical engineering major, have started a petition to put the ordinance back on the Associated Students of CSU (ASCSU) agenda.
Rice and Floren set up post in the lower level of Lory Student center Thursday to gather signatures from students.
"The goal is to organize as many people as possible," Rice said. "People care about this. We want to get it back on legislation."
Their plan is to gather as many signatures as necessary to influence ASCSU and the Fort Collins community to readdress the issue.
Many students may join in the cause, but it will still prove to an uphill battle against city lawmakers and residents, Floren said.
"We want the university's voice heard around the community," Floren said. "This is a big issue on campus."
J. David McSwane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org