Local Laws

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Most cities' and towns' official websites contain a large body of helpful information, including local ordinances available for searching and downloading. Most cities' and counties' websites follow these formats:

  • County: www.co.<county name>.<state postal code>.us
  • Example: www.co.hennepin.ca.us
  • City: www.ci.<city name>.<state postal code>.us
  • Example: www.ci.boulder.ca.us.

Your state website also may have links to cities and counties.

If your city's website does not include the text of local ordinances, you may be able to find local laws on one of these sites:

  • State and Local Government on the Net (www.statelocalgov.net), and
  • the Municipal Code Corporation (www.municode.com).

If you don't have success with the Internet, your local laws may be available at your local public library or the city or county law library (usually located near the courthouse). You can also try getting a copy of local ordinances from the relevant city or county office or special district. For example, the zoning board may give you a copy of your town's zoning ordinances; your regional water district may have copies of local water usage ordinances. These departments usually charge a small fee to cover photocopying costs.

Once you've found a copy of your town's local laws, look for your topic in the index, if there is one, or in the table of contents. Be prepared to look under several different terms. Some indexes are not as helpful as they should be. For instance, if you're quarreling with neighbors about the excessive height of their new fence, you might start by looking under "height" and "fence." If you are unsuccessful, try "zoning laws."

Once you've found the law you need, make sure it hasn't been changed or repealed. If you're reading an ordinance online, the source will tell you what year's version of the law you're looking at. If you're not sure it's current, you can call the city or county clerk's office and ask when the law was last amended. At the library, check the front or back of the book of ordinances for updates, and ask the librarian when the library received its most recent update.

by: Ralph Warner

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