Boulder County house concert regulation update

Some of you have heard about Boulder County shutting down my quiet living room concerts outside Nederland. Land Use actually told a group of us on October 16 that there are no formal complaints against the monthly potluck series we’ve been hosting since 1999. However, they are still interested in generic gathering regulations (requiring a permit) for groups over 30. Pretty absurd in my opinion - if there’s a problem just enforce the existing nuisance laws against excessive noise, traffic, and parking instead of creating a new law.

Anyway, we have been fighting Boulder County for over a year because we believe they are invading our Constitutional rights. We have spent over $25K in legal fees and expect to hit $30K when we’re done protecting our right to quiet private parties. If you’d like to attend a legal defense benefit concert on November 18 at the Nederland Community Center please check out

Tom Kimmel’s songs have been recorded by legendary artists from Joe Cocker to Linda Ronstadt.
Tom Prasada-Rao’s passion and soul have earned him numerous writing and performing awards.
Michael Lille’s songwriting and lustrous guitar playing have earned him the respect and admiration of peers and fans across the country.

Nederland Community Center
750 Hwy 72 North
Nederland, CO 80466
$20 - $30 sliding scale per person
6 PM potluck, 7 PM concert
Benefit ticket reservations can be made via:

Oh… i hope a bunch of you will GO! The music is going to be great and add to that the cause that benefits from this and you will be getting a LOT for your money. I am forwarding this on to people I know in your area… and even calling some of them. This is IMPORTANT!

Oh… i hope a bunch of you will GO! The music is going to be great and add to that the cause that benefits from this and you will be getting a LOT for your money. I am forwarding this on to people I know in your area… and even calling some of them. This is IMPORTANT!
Yes I agree.
I was hoping to show my support and attend, however we just learned of a death in the family and will have to pass on this, this time. I’m not sure when but we have to leave town for a bit. Trying to square up some plans as we speak.
Sorry to hear of your loss, Miki. Safe travels to you and yours.

Hope Lin :flower

So sorry to hear of your loss, Miki. Although our paths have not crossed before and I only recently joined this website I have felt welcomed and supported by the music lovers in this virtual community. I think it makes a difference that we all have something real to tie it back to…the wonderful shared experiences brought to us by Planet Bluegrass, Folkwest, Folk Alliance, and of course the amazing artists we have all heard.

For anyone who did not see the Boulder Daily Camera on Friday, here is their article regarding this upcoming concert.

I’m not sure if anyone from this Forum actually made The Sherpas concert but it was a major success considering it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We raised a few thousand dollars…probably $1500 after expenses. Every bit helps. :thumbsup

We did test the concept of doing a benefit there so we’ll do it again in April. I’ll post something then but it will be The Duhks ( playing in this intimate theater. No dates yet but they will probably play two nights…one benefit for our house concert legal defense and the second for their own Sustainability Project (



Anyone can comment but I encourage especially Boulder County folks to chime in…

As my wife Debbie said recently, we appreciate all the great support we’ve received during the last 18 months. The end is near! We only have two more public hearings to go.

This Wednesday morning public comments will be shipped to members of Boulder County’s Planning Commission. Unfortunately, unless you commented recently on the draft regulations none of your earlier letters on house concerts will be delivered.

You CAN help with a short comment via the BoCo Land Use website.

** Please note County web site meeting time currently lists the incorrect time (which they will fix soon) - it will be an afternoon 3 PM hearing on Wednesday, January 16. **

** While we believe there is no need for this constitutionally challenged regulation, the primary wording change we’d like to see is raising the maximum from 6 to 12 home events per year. **


If you have more time, letters to the County Commissioners and some local papers would be most appreciated. All of them require your name, address, and daytime phone number for verification purposes. If you keep your newspaper letters to under 200 words it will increase the odds of it being printed.

I am not a Libertarian but if you need tips on writing a letter to an editor check this out

Please write what’s on your mind or pick one topic from this list to be most effective:

#1 Boulder County is going in the wrong direction trying to regulate private parties. Even
“progressive” Colorado Springs allows monthly gatherings of 100 at a house concert there. Here’s an
article from 2002…this series in CO Springs does concerts almost every month now.

Other cities allowing house concerts include

#2 Cities all over the country, including Boulder, have nuisance party laws. They do not regulate size or frequency but instead measure the impact on the neighborhood.

#3 Regulating events on public lands is one thing but regulations affecting what you do in your living room has constitutional problems.

#4 Enforcement of the proposed regulation will be practically impossible. Who will keep track of annual “home events” and how to record if attendance was between 25 - 60? For something that is not advertised to the general public, how can you tell the difference between one of these “home events” and an ordinary party without actually sending an officer on-site to investigate? Not only does this make it unenforceable (that knock on the door could be a Fourth Amendment violation or even a First Amendment violation via prior restraint if people start looking over their shoulders for that knock), it gives any ornery neighbor an excuse to file anonymous complaints any time someone hosts a party of any kind.

#5 Boulder County is taking an absurd position by saying social events are illegal if not specifically authorized when most laws specify what is illegal. Why does a quiet indoor party need to be limited in size or frequency when much louder outdoor BBQs are allowed? Why limit the size of temporary signs to 2 square feet when real estate and celebratory party signs are often are much larger? Are there 14th amendment Equal Protection Clause issues here?

No justification is given for restricting music events (broadcast or live) but not restricting other broadcast events run under similar circumstances. What about parties where people chip in for pay per view events? Or weekly football parties where everyone comes to watch the broadcast but is expected to chip in for pizza and beer provided by the hosts? Or a big film club that meets regularly at the home of a family that has an extra-large media room and asks that everyone who attends chips in to help pay for the equipment?

#6 Boulder County should encourage community social gatherings in homes. Many wine tasting clubs, prayer meetings with donations, pay-per-view football parties take place monthly or more often. Every year, people often have outdoor fund raisers (both political and charitable) that will exceed the size or frequency of these “home events.” Why should they be exempt?

#7 If exemptions are allowed for celebrations, how do you treat a Halloween potluck with musicians where guests optionally buy CDs or tip the musicians? How is that different from a political fund raiser where contributions are often expected? Why is Boulder County making a distinction over activity versus neighborhood impact?

#8 Why not just enforce existing nuisance laws rather than create new unconstitutional laws?

#9 Isn’t this a waste of County time and money when there are no known noise, parking, or traffic citations against the house concert series you sent the Cease-and-Desist order? Where is the protection against frivolous anonymous complainers?

#10 Boulder County has said it’s legal to have private concerts where musicians can be paid by the host and guests may offer money to the hosts. What’s illegal is putting out a tip jar…a silly distinction.

Anyone needing a reminder of the events leading up to this or want to read past letters of support (at least the ones we got copied on) see

Thanks for wading through this. Comments can be sent at any time before the 16th for the Planning Commission. The Commissioners meeting will likely be in February - date TBD. Comments received before then will also be hopefully read. 3 PM is a difficult time for many people working day jobs to make a public hearing so we’d love your physical support on Wednesday, January 16. Thank you…and Happy New Year!


greg and debbie

You can write a letter to a newspaper saying you are watching Boulder County pass a really bad regulation…better yet, please show up if you can at 3 PM at the Pearl Street Courthouse on Wednesday, January 16. They schedule the meeting at a bad time for people who work in the day so I am not counting on too many supporters…

Miki, GO! Be there for support even if it’s not your voting district. They could cross over to your side of the fence next!

Auntie Hope :pickin

Cool! :thumbsup

I just did a search for “16” and found it here :thumbsup

As our small town (~1500 in town, ~5000 surrounding) newspaper doesn’t really have much of a website, I’ve copied the text here.

I found out tonight that the only County Commissioner hearing date in February or March offered to us was Feb 21st. Unfortunately, that’s during the Folk Alliance conference that we participate in every year. So, the next possible date is late April…stay tune for the specific date.

Scroll down for the house concert article in this January 2008 issue of the Left Hand Valley Courier

This was the group that supported the Land Use Director’s
interpretation at our house concert appeal on 07 Feb 2007. If there
had been some members not so intimidated by the Land Use Department’s
lawyers…they could have stopped it there. Please pass this on to
anyone willing to challenge the status quo.

25 January 2008

CONTACT: Cecilia Lacey, Boulder County Commissioners’ Office, 303-441-4504

Representatives needed to serve on Board of Adjustment

Boulder County is seeking three people to fill vacancies on the Board of Adjustment. The BOA has statutory authority to hear appeals and grant variances to the Boulder County Land Use Code.

The Board needs one city of Boulder resident representative, one Longmont resident and one member-at-large.

The deadline to apply is Thursday, Jan. 31. For more information, visit or contact Cecilia Lacey at 303-441-4504, .


There are 4 parts you can download.

I do believe the Boulder County Commissioners were frustrated with the heavy-handed approach Land Use Director Graham Billingsley took. Many people certainly thought he lacked prosecutorial discretion but I didn’t think he was a mean man. Interestingly enough, the Zoning Violations Officer that we were first dealt with back in July 2006 left her job abruptly. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the mistake associated with the original May 2006 inquiry regarding water usage (ill-founded fear of her well drying up which Boulder County doesn’t even regulate)

Begin forwarded message:

From: Boulder County Information
Date: February 1, 2008 3:14:45 PM MST
Subject: NEWS RELEASE: Land Use Director resigns position with Boulder County

February 1, 2008

Contact: Barb Halpin, Boulder County Commissioners’ Office, 303-441-1622,

Land Use Director resigns position with Boulder County
Graham Billingsley’s last day will be Feb. 15

(BOULDER COUNTY, Colo.) –Land Use Director Graham Billingsley has announced his decision to leave Boulder County to start his own consulting business. Billingsley has served as the County’s land use director since 1989. His last day with Boulder County will be Friday, Feb. 15.

County Commissioner Cindy Domenico - who has served in Boulder County government during Billingsley’s entire 18-year tenure - said today in a staff announcement, “Graham and his many contributions to public service and to Boulder County will be sorely missed. He has done much for the County in his time as director and we wish him all the best in his new endeavors.”

Among his achievements, Billingsley has:
· Played a critical role in updating the County’s Comprehensive Plan, including the recent addition of a highly innovative Sustainability Element;
· Established the County’s Site Plan Review program;
· Contributed to a significant number of Historic Preservation projects around the county;
· Co-implemented a Transfer of Development Rights program with the Parks and Open Space Department that has led to the preservation of more than 6,000 acres of agricultural and open space lands;
· Served as the County’s Zoning Administrator, developing programs and enforcing zoning regulations that help provide for the safety of our residents and help protect our natural resources;
· Launched the County’s popular Household Hazardous Waste Management program; and
· Served as director of the County’s Recycling Center and the Division of Resource Conservation.

Most recently, Billingsley has helped oversee an extensive review and revision process for the existing land use code, a process that is putting sustainable land use policies and practices in the forefront of future planning and development in Boulder County.

The Board of County Commissioners will appoint Dale Case, Chief Planner, Land Use Department, to serve as acting director for the department.


Barb Halpin x 1622
Public Information Officer
Boulder County
Board of County Commissioners
303-441-1622 - office
303-579-0773 - mobile

Another article on the Land Use Director resignation. Originally we heard his last day was March 25 but it got moved up to Feb 15 for some reason.

Despite our request to pick a different date (as we had already secured tickets and purchased conference passes months ago for the International Folk Alliance Conference) Graham Billingsley picked the next hearing date as February 21st. It’s not been publicly posted so I’m hoping the date can still change with enough public pressure.

Although this hearing is not about our specific house concert series, it wouldn’t have gotten this far without our involvement. We believe we deserve the right to be included in this final hearing. After waiting about 20 months to get this resolved we don’t see why another week or even month would matter. And we did ask in advance if the hearing could avoid certain dates in February and March…it seems a bit petty.

If you have time, please write acting Land Use Director Dale Case (copying the 3 Commissioners if you want) a request to move the Home Events Docket date to a date that the Chings can attend. This hearing date is also a problem for at least one other unincorporated Boulder County house concert series host affected by these regulations.

If you feel like commenting on the proposed draft

Here are some points to consider if you want to add anything more to your letter - you can pick and choose one or two that resonate with you:

(1) Boulder County can exempt “home events” by simply changing the definition of commercial activity. And do nothing more. There is no difference in neighborhood impact between a private party host paying the musician versus a private party voluntary contribution basket paying the musician. Focus on the impact not the type of activity for a clean law;

(2) One obvious problem is how do you handle a New Year’s Eve concert if it needs to end by 11 PM?;

(3) The linkage back to home occupations regulations adds an unnecessary large complexity;

(4) The maximum sign size should be increased from two square feet to six square feet per LUC 13-200 (A)(1)(b) which allows a 6 square foot (12 square feet for lettering on both sides) temporary sign. This is a 2-foot by 3-foot maximum size sign which is really not that large. “For Rent” and “For Sale” signs of that size are routinely left up for months so why question a home event sign for one night;

(5) The draft regulation is unnecessary because even the Land Use Director admits the one or two obnoxious outdoor events per year can be dealt with existing codes regarding noise or commercial activity;

(6) The draft regulation is unenforceable because who will actually record if you do thirteen or more events with 25 or more people. It has many large loopholes (e.g. prayer meetings with music, benefit concerts, political fund raisers) so regulating frequency creates enforcement problems;

(7) The draft regulation is unconstitutional because it violates 1st and 14th amendments - rights of free speech and assembly; prior restraint; unequal protection under the law. Why can wealthy people have as many private parties as they want but a group of people can’t share the cost? How is the impact different for 13 house concerts versus 13 political fund raisers or charity events with entertainment? All these events could potentially have the same impact on a neighborhood. Why is a 300-person outdoor polo charity event (regularly taking place in Boulder County) allowed more flexibility than a quiet indoor event?;

(8) Boulder County has already spent 20 months of staff time pursuing this regulation with so little to show. Taxpayers should be sickened by the resources devoted to this non-issue. Imagine the additional cost if a well-funded house concert host decided to challenge this regulation aggressively in court…someone less friendly would have consumed far more staff time and legal resources;

(9) Many cities and counties around this country allow house concerts to take place without conflict. Boulder’s cultural reputation has been damaged already. Provide protection of house concerts in the Land Use Code but do nothing more;

(10) Prosecutorial discretion needs to be adopted. Boulder County should re-evaluate the anonymous complaint policy. Graham Billingsley apologizes for the software error on the initial inquiry (water usage) that should have been immediately dismissed given Boulder County does not regulate water usage. (The concern was unwarranted as well.) The anonymous complaint the Chings received could have started as an exaggerated 19-point “non-complaint” but there’s no way to track anonymous complaints. The only name that is registered is a hypersensitive complainant who has called DIA over 500 times in one year to complain about airplane noise.

Other municipalities have ignored anonymous complaints (as they could be from outside the jurisdiction) or have required two separate named complaints (so one chronic complainer cannot abuse the system) within a short time period. Others have attached some penalty for frivolous complaints.

Good news…the County Commissioners will reschedule the Feb 21st public hearing. Like visiting your dentist, rescheduling means we won’t have our hearing until late April which is what we had expected.

Please continue to send letters regarding the draft regulation to give our Commissioners political cover should they decide to weaken the proposed regulation. However, you no longer need to ask them to move the hearing date.

Thanks for those of you who wrote letters asking to change the date!

Dale Case, the interim Boulder County Land Use Director, just confirmed today a new date March 13 for the Commissioners meeting to discuss Home Events. Hopefully this will be our very last public hearing on this topic! It will be in the same Pearl Street Courthouse Public Hearing room we’ve always used. We could use a good turnout on this last hearing.

There will NOT be a hearing on Feb 21st. Thanks again for those who wrote letters asking that the date be changed for us.

If you have time please comment on the proposed draft regulation per any of the 10 reasons cited in earlier postings. Thank you.,2032.msg18215.html#msg18215

Just got a call from The Duhks manager today. When I get more details I will post but wanted to let folks know The Duhks ( will be playing two benefit concerts on Wednesday, April 16, and Thursday, April 17.