If you feel your assessment is not correct, you can protest it with the City Assessor's Office at 515-239-5370 or by clicking on this link: City Assessor's Office.
No, the City of Ames does not prohibit the keeping of any certain breed of dog. In fact, the City addresses the broader topic of dangerous domestic animals - not just dogs - in order to protect the public from hazards associated with any such animal. In general, a dangerous domestic animal is one that has inflicted serious injury on a person or another animal, poses a potential risk of attacking and inflicting serious injury without provocation, or is owned for the purpose of animal fighting (which is a violation of state law).
The City Animal Control Officer determines, based on reasonable evidence, whether an animal is a dangerous domestic animal. Such evidence may include a verified report of aggression on the part of the animal, whether the animal was provoked, and an expert’s opinion. Under City code, people responsible for the keeping of an animal that is determined to be a dangerous domestic animal must meet several requirements. Such requirements include registering the animal with the Animal Control Officer, providing to the City proof of financial responsibility for injury or damage that might be caused by the animal, having a confinement plan approved by the Animal Control Officer, and meeting other handling requirements the Animal Control Officer has determined are necessary.
With these regulations and requirements, the City of Ames intends to take a fact-based, measured approach to protecting the public from dangerous domestic animals. Rather than making unfounded assumptions about an entire breed of animal, the Animal Control Officer focuses on the actual behavior of a domestic animal to determine whether that particular animal is dangerous. For additional information about requirements and appeal procedures, please refer to the Ames Municipal Code Chapter 3, Division II, Dangerous Domestic Animals. Finally, keep in mind that everyone in Ames has a duty to report an incident in which a domestic animal causes serious injury to a person or another domestic animal within 24 hours of the incident. To report such an incident, call Animal Control at 515-239-5530.
I’ve noticed many cats around our neighborhood. It seems as though they’re let out the door and left to roam. Is there a leash law for cats as well as dogs?Yes, there is a “leash law” for cats. The Ames Municipal Code requires that cats - just like dogs - be restrained by their owners and kept from running at large. It is unlawful for animal owners to allow their pets to roam the neighborhoods and parks. Unless they are on their owners property or that of a neighbor who has given permission, both cats and dogs must be restrained by an appropriate leash.
Violations of the Animals at Large ordinance are municipal infractions punishable by fines of $50. Second and third offenses result in $100 fines, after which additional violations can result in fines as high as $750! In addition, cats and dogs that are roaming at large in Ames are impounded by animal control officers. The first time a cat or dog is impounded, the owner must pay $25.00 for the animal’s release. After the first time, the impound fee is raised to $30.00.
What should you do if you see an animal at large in your yard? Contact the pet’s owner or call the Ames Animal Control office. Do not try to trap a cat or dog unless you have first contacted the Animal Control office and received written permission to use a humane live box trap.
I’ve noticed that as the days get longer, there are more and more construction projects starting even earlier in the morning. Sometimes the noise is so loud it wakes me up. Is the legal?Yes, it is legal. Generally, the City does regulate the amount of noise permitted within city limits. Pursuant to a municipal ordinance found in Chapter 16 of the Ames Municipal Code, the loudness permitted varies by time of day and characteristic of neighborhood. For example, in residential neighborhoods the permitted level is 60 decibels between 7 a.m. and midnight, and 55 decibels between midnight and 7 a.m. In most instances, the type of noise doesn’t matter. Whether the noise is music, vehicle noise, or even voices - any noise that exceeds the permitted level could subject the person responsible to a citation. However, the ordinance does provide a few exceptions. The noise limits do not apply to emergency work or emergency vehicles, or to activities that have been granted a noise permit allowing the level to be exceeded for temporary activities, like parades or fireworks. Also excepted are nonprofessional athletic contests and all construction work. It is the last exception that would make the early-rising construction workers’ activities lawful.
- The City of Ames does not prohibit the keeping of these animals, but we do have regulations providing that any animals be kept in housing that is safe, sanitary, and size appropriate for the type of animal, that they be fed, watered, given appropriate veterinary care and kept reasonably quiet and secure. Please refer to Ames Municipal Code Chapter 3 Section 3.111--Standards of Care where you will find a complete list of standards of care.
- No. The city ordinance, Sec. 8.401 on the subject of “open burning” states: “open burning of leaves is prohibited at all times.” That has not always been the rule. The City enacted the leaf-burning prohibition in 1998. The policy recognizes the adverse health effects that burning autumn leaves has for many people. Some respiratory ailments make it impossible to tolerate smoke in the air without suffering a reaction that, for some, requires medical treatment. In 1996, in a lawsuit brought against the town of Mallard, Iowa, in the U.S. District Court, it was ruled that a city ordinance permitting the open burning of leaves could be found to constitute a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The court stated that a city permitting open burning of leaves prevented such disabled persons from enjoying access to city parks, traveling on city streets, or attending public functions held outside. Consequently, the court concluded that if a city did not prohibit leaf burning it would be liable under Title II of the ADA as a matter of law.
The City of Ames ordinance does allow open fires for recreational purposes, but requires that the fire be more than 15 feet from any structure. In recognition of the affect that smoke from open burning can have, the fire department is authorized by the ordinance to cause recreational fires to be extinguished upon receiving a complaint.
- Many Ames residents like to voice an opinion, support a candidate, or cheer on the home team with a temporary yard sign. However, there are rules that address sign placement. When locating the right spot for your yard signs, please keep in mind:
• Signs should be placed behind the property line and are prohibited in the Public Right of Way, which is the area located between the curb and back of the sidewalk. For properties without sidewalks, the Right of Way width may vary, but is usually the first 14.5 feet behind the curb in residential neighborhoods.
• Signs should never block the view of on-coming traffic. At each intersection, there is a 20-foot by 20-foot “visibility triangle”, which is measured along the property line. Items within the visibility triangle must be less than 36 inches above the street gutter.
• Temporary signs may not be displayed for more than 90 consecutive days without removal or replacement.
The sign ordinance is in the City of Ames Municipal Code, Chapter 21.
- To get an estimate of your property taxes, contact the City Assessor's Office at 515-239-5370 or click on this link: Estimate Your Property Tax.
- You can get this information through the City Assessor's Office at 515-239-5370 or by clicking on this link: Property Search on the City Assessor's website.
- If you feel the assessment of your property is incorrect, you can protest it by contacting the City Assessor's Office at 515-239-5370 or by clicking on this link: Protest your Assessment.
- Anytime the snow accumulation reaches two inches on the main City streets (Lincoln Way, Grand Avenue, Duff Avenue and lots of others), be prepared to move your vehicle if you have parked along a snow route! When the snow ordinance is put into effect, it will be posted on the City's website and on TV Channel 12 (Government Access Television) as soon as possible. You may also listen to: KASI - 1430 AM or KCCQ -105.1 FM. We also give this information to the Des Moines TV stations, 5, 8 and 13. When they have time, they include the information in their scrolls. Once the ordinance has been put into effect, you could receive a ticket or have your car towed if it is parked on a snow route. We don’t want this to happen, so please move your vehicle. If you are towed, you’ll need to contact Elmquist Decker's at 515-232-6670 to get it back. During the snow removal process, please don’t park on the snow routes until the snow has stopped falling and the street is plowed from curb to curb.
- The city plays no role in landlord/tenant disputes, but there is a program that might be able to help. Call Rent Iowa at 515-233-3390.
I have a neighbor who mows the lawn and uses a blower at 7 am in the morning. Doesn't the city have ordinances or rules regarding this issue?Generally, the City of Ames does regulate the amount of noise permitted within city limits. Pursuant to a municipal ordinance found in Chapter 16 of the City Code, the loudness permitted varies by time of day and characteristic of neighborhood. For example, in residential neighborhoods the permitted level is 60 decibels between 7 a.m. and midnight, and 55 decibels between midnight and 7 a.m. In most instances, the type of noise doesn't matter. Whether the noise is music, vehicle noise, or even voices – any noise that exceeds the permitted level could subject the person responsible to a citation.
The ordinance does provide a few exceptions, however. The noise limits do not apply to emergency work or emergency vehicles, or to activities that have been granted a noise permit allowing the level to be exceeded for temporary activities, like parades or fireworks. Also excepted are nonprofessional athletic contests and all construction work.
I’m thinking of putting a fence around my property. I’m looking at a lot of different styles and heights. When I install my fence, what do I need to know?"Good fences make good neighbors," said the poet Robert Frost. Maybe so, but fences also make for some good questions. One of the most frequent questions concerns set backs – the distance the fence must be from the property line. Must a fence be set back a certain distance from the neighbor’s property? The answer is no. Set back requirements for structures of any kind are established by the "Zone Development Tables" for each of the various zoning districts. Those regulations state set back requirements for buildings, but not for fences.
Another concern is aesthetics. Is there a rule that requires the "nice" side of a board fence to face outward? The answer to that is also no.
However, there are rules about the height of fences that relate to the location of the fence. In most situations those rules are simple. In the front yard the height limit is four feet. In the required side and rear set backs for the house, the height limit for a fence is six feet; but, if you have a side yard or rear yard that is more than the required set back, then the fence or part of a fence that is not in the required set back can be as much as eight feet high. Those are the simple rules. There are also some complicated rules. If you want to put a fence across the back of what is called a "through lot", (a lot that fronts on one street and backs up to another) or if you have a corner lot and want to put a fence across the side yard that abuts on the street, the rules are complicated. In those situations a visit to the City's Department of Planning and Housing for consultation is recommended.
I’ve noticed a lot of campaign signs in yards, posters on light poles, and even information left at my house and on my car windshield. Are these Legal?It depends. Property owners may put up temporary yard signs within their property as long as the sign doesn’t block the view for drivers. Light poles – or other public infrastructure- are off limits for posting any type of information. Candidate posters, as well as garage sale notices, should not be put on light poles. City Code makes it unlawful for any person to throw or deposit any paper, cards, advertisements, or handbills into any street, alley or other public place or on any motor vehicles while parked on public property. The concern is that these things become litter. To leave information at a residence, the City Clerk’s Office recommends notices be hung on doorknobs – either with a cut-out on the flier itself or with a rubber band looped through a punched hole. That way the resident usually has to remove the flier and limits the likelihood that it will be come litter. If you have questions about what’s allowed, contact the City Clerk’s Office at 515-239-5105, or the City Attorney’s Office at 515-239-5146.
My lease is almost up and I’m getting ready to move out of my apartment. How do I get my security deposit back? What do I do with all the junk from my apartment that I want to discard when I move?Security deposits are a common source of dispute between landlords and tenants. Possible sources of information and assistance include:
1. Your lease. Check the rental agreement for specific instructions and information as questions arise.
2. The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Iowa Code Chapter 562A. You can read the entire code at the Iowa Legislative Document Research Page. Generally speaking, your deposit should be returned to you unless your landlord needs it to cover the cost of damage you caused. The law sets out what is required of you and your landlord in regards to your security deposit, and the timeframe you have to fulfill those requirements. You must provide your landlord with your mailing address. Your landlord must send you the deposit or a letter that explains why your deposit was not returned. If your landlord keeps your deposit to pay for repairs, the landlord should explain in the letter what damages needed to be repaired.
3. A private attorney. The City Attorney cannot provide legal advice on these issues.
Sources to check on how to dispose of junk you’ve accumulated or furniture you don’t want include:
City of Ames Municipal Code. Remember that garbage set outdoors for collection must be fully contained in water-tight receptacles. You can read the rules about garbage and refuse in the Municipal Code Chapter 10.
Your private garbage collection service. Call your garbage collector to check on things like possible restrictions or additional charges for hauling away larger items.
City of Ames Resource Recovery Plant. To dispose of larger items such as furniture, you can take it to the Resource Recovery Plant.
My neighbor’s dog barks constantly. Is there a rule against constant disruption of the peace and quiet of a neighborhood?Yes, Ames Municipal Code section 3.115 prohibits pet owners from allowing their pet from barking, howling, or making such noises for prolonged periods of time to the point that it unreasonably disturbs the peace and quiet of the area. An owner who allows their pet to be a nuisance can be charged with the violation of this code section. Such a violation is a municipal infraction punishable by a penalty of $50 for the first violation and by a penalty of $100 for every violation thereafter. For additional information about pet-keeping laws here in Ames, you can call the Ames Animal Shelter at 515-239-5530.
My neighbor’s tree hangs over my driveway, dropping leaves and branches on my car. Is there a law that says my neighbor must keep the tree trimmed back? Can I trim the tree back?There is no City ordinance on this subject because in mature neighborhoods each lot may have large trees that overhang two or more adjoining lots and visa versa. An attempt to have a standard enforced by the City could easily entangle the local government in a vexing web of unintended consequences. However, a wide variety of disputes concerning encroaching tree limbs have been presented to the courts over the years. Under the resulting common law, when overhanging branches drop leaves and twigs that are not toxic or otherwise inherently injurious, the adjoining lot owner has no basis for legal action against the tree owner. The court’s view is that any other stance would risk making the tree owner liable for natural processes. That judicial policy extends also to tree roots that enter and clog sewer lines. The courts do, however, permit what is called a “self-help remedy”. In that regard, an Iowa Supreme Court decision gives you the right to cut back the offending tree limbs to the property line. Be careful though. Section 658.4 Code of Iowa states that for “willfully injuring” any tree or shrub on the land of another, the perpetrator shall pay triple damages if sued by the tree owner. If limbs are cut back too far, or in a way that a jury might find to be “injuring” the tree, liability could be the result. For details, see: 65 ALR4th 603, Sec. 658.4 Iowa Code, and Harndon v. Stultz, 100 N.W. 329 (Iowa 1904).
Now that the weather is warmer, I’m exercising outside more often. Some of the sidewalks I jog along are cracked and in poor condition. I don’t want to run in the street, what can I do?Maintaining sidewalks is the responsibility of the abutting property owner. Just as property owners must clear the sidewalks of snow and ice in the winter, sidewalks must be properly maintained in warmer weather as well. Along with keeping sidewalks free from overgrowth, leaves, and debris, sidewalks with large cracks, holes, and buckled portions must be repaired or replaced. The City of Ames Public Works Department is responsible for the Sidewalk Safety Program. The program is complaint-driven, which means City employees will assess a sidewalk if someone notifies them of a problem. During the sidewalk evaluation any defects are marked and measured. If the sidewalk is in violation of the program, the property owner is notified. For more information or to report a sidewalk in question, contact the Public Works Department at 515-239-5342.
Once the weather turns cooler, I’m interested in completing some home repair projects. Do I need a building permit to add a deck or rebuild my old garage?Yes. There are three easy steps when obtaining a building permit for either a new deck or garage. The first step is going to the Inspections Office located on the second floor of Ames City Hall in downtown Ames. When you go to the Office you will need to bring in a complete site plan for them to look over. Your site map must include several things, including scaled drawings of your property with all buildings, hard surfaced areas and property lines shown. The site plans must also show work to be done, including placement of windows and doors. You will also need to include drawings of exterior elevations of proposed work as well as any other technical information about the project, such as footing design, foundation design, spacing and dimensions of floor joists and engineering if those are required. A full list of the site plan requirements can be found at the Inspections Office. The second step in the process is to fill out an application for a building permit, which can also be found at the Inspections Office. Once your application has been approved, the final step in the process is to purchase a building permit from the Inspections Office and you are all set to build either your deck or garage. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are planning on having any electrical outlets you must obtain a separate electrical permit from the Inspections Office. Also, any informational handout sheets for various projects are available at the Inspections Office and if you have any questions, please call them at 515-239-5153.
- Be sure to get the word out about the treasures to be found at your next garage sale by following the City rules on signs. The rules allow people the opportunity to advertise, but also protect the aesthetic character and property values of our city. Property owners may put up a temporary yard sign on their property as long as the sign does not extend onto public property or interfere with the view of drivers. Please be aware that the area between the sidewalk and the curb is public property, so signs are prohibited in that area. Be sure to remove the sign when your garage sale is complete and the sign no longer serves its purpose. Prompt removal of outdated signs helps ensure our city remains clean and clear of unsightly debris. Finally, do not attach your sign to rocks, fences, trees or utility poles. Such activities are specifically prohibited by the rules. For more details about the City rules on signs, check out the Ames Municipal Code, Chapter 21. If you have questions about what is allowed, don’t hesitate to call the City Clerk’s Office at 515-239-5105 or the City Attorney’s Office at 515-239-5146. Have a great spring and happy garage sales!
- Ames residents have several options when it comes to disposing of raked leaves. The leaves can be collected with regular garbage collection services, provided they are kept separate from other household garbage. Leaves can also be used for mulch, otherwise known as land application, or they can be composted for use as fertilizer. Mulching or composting can take place at the residence or at another location so long as the provisions in the Ames Municipal Code are followed.
Here are some of the applicable provisions from the Ames Municipal Code:
• Section 10.8 of the Ames Municipal Code describes the disposal options for household garbage and yard waste. Yard waste can be disposed of in the same manner as regular household garbage but Section 10.7 requires that yard waste must be kept separate from other garbage.
• Section 10.24 of the Ames Municipal Code does allow someone to use leaves or grass for land application so long as the leaves are applied within seventy-two (72) hours of the time that the materials arrived at the site. The Code also requires that the person who owns the property on which the leaves are applied must take reasonable measures to make sure that the leaves remain on the site of application.
• Section 10.24 of the Ames Municipal Code allows for the composting of leaves so long as it complies with the standards established by the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR’s guidelines can be found in the Iowa Administrative Code at 567 Chapter 105 however these guidelines do not apply to yard waste that is “composted and used on the same premises where originated.” So if you are composting your own leaves, on your own property, and plan to use to compost on your own property, you are good to go! Commercial composters, or larger scale composting operations will need to be sure to consult the standards established by the Department of Natural Resources.
- There is an ordinance prohibiting skateboards in certain locations of Ames and another ordinance that restricts riding upon any roadway except while crossing a street on a crosswalk.
You may want to check out Section 17.28 and Section 26.7 of the Ames Municipal Code. Violation of these ordinances can result in a penalty of $50 for a person’s first violation and $100 for each repeat violation. It may be of your best interest to skateboard at the Skate Park located across from Brookside Park.
- A tree located on a homeowner’s property inside the sidewalk is the full responsibility of the homeowner. If that tree were to be blown over onto and damage City property, or a limb fall off and damage City property, the homeowner would be responsible for any such damage. Of course, the homeowner should check their homeowners insurance to see if they have any coverage for such an event.
Ordinary maintenance within the publicly owned property right-of-way (that area between the sidewalk and the curb) is the responsibility of the abutting property owner. However, in accordance with Ames Municipal Code section 22.1, the property owner shall not remove any diseased trees or dead wood on publicly owned property or right-of-way. If a tree located in the publicly owned property right-of-way should be blown over and damage City property, or a limb fall off and damage City property, a claim for that damage could be made with the City.
- Walking in a winter wonderland is easier, safer, and a lot more pleasant if the sidewalk has been cleared. Clearing the sidewalk of snow and ice is the duty and responsibility of the owner of the abutting property. This is established by both state law and City ordinance. The City of Ames ordinance Sec. 22.2 says that you have ten “daylight hours” after the event that caused the accumulation to clear the snow from the sidewalk. If you don’t, someone from the City may hang a notice on your door reminding you to get the job done, especially if other citizens are calling the City. If you don’t clear the sidewalk soon after the notice, the City will send out a crew to do the job, and the cost will appear on your next property tax bill as a special assessment. More importantly, if someone is injured by slipping on the ice and falling, you, as the abutting property owner, will be liable. That could make the effort of clearing the snow before it got all tramped down and icy look cheap and easy. So, button up your overcoat, and be a good neighbor. Get out there and clear away the snow. You will be glad you did.