Fort Collins Pipe Band’s practice doesn’t break Longmont laws

The Fort Collins Pipe Band rehearses outside Central Presbyterian Church, along Kimbark Street, Sunday evening. (Lewis Geyer/Times-Call)

Dear Johnnie: Bagpipes are driving me insane.

It’s too bad. I used to like them. A marching bagpipe band from Fort Collins practices at a downtown church parking lot for 31/2 hours on Sundays during the summer. It’s a block from my house. I don’t have air conditioning, so my windows need to be open.

I know there are noise ordinances in Longmont, but I’ve been told the bagpipe band needs to exceed a certain decibel level at my property line before I can file a complaint. Apparently it does not, but it’s still darn annoying.

Is there anything else in the codes that would apply to a nuisance like marching bagpipe band practices? — Rich

Dear Rich: There is not.

If they were practicing between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., then you might have a case, but outside those hours, on property they have permission to occupy, they are not breaking any rules.

I checked with code-enforcement supervisor Shannon Stadler, who said she recalls that the city received a noise complaint from the church’s address about a year ago at this time, “but I don’t see any historical case reports, probably because we didn’t think it was a violation.”

“The band has, or at least the church, received an anonymous complaint two summers ago as I remember,” Luann Barnes, president of the Fort Collins Pipe Band, wrote to me. “We have a Longmont police officer in the band and he researched the city ordinance once we were made aware of the complaint.”

Barnes said the band even bought a decibel meter to confirm it was not too loud: “We practice on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and are only outside for the last hour. We also practice Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. but have not gone outside after the complaint because we felt that might be too late to be making that much noise.”

The band has practiced at Central Presbyterian for at least three years. At least that’s what Barnes remembers: “The first year was once a week, and (it) has been twice a week since then.”

While complaints are rare, Barnes said, the pipe band has received many compliments: “Every week we receive honks, waves, cheers and whistles from passing motorists — and the occasional bicyclist. Some people pull in to listen for a while and folks from the neighborhood will walk down to the church to sit in the grass and listen.”

I called the church, but its offices are closed Fridays.

“Central Presbyterian Church has graciously let us use their facility for practices,” Barnes said, “and the last thing we want is to put them in poor stead with the neighborhood in which they reside. If there is any way to mitigate the complaint of your reader we would be more than willing to try. I have no intent on making anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Rich, it might behoove you to insert your earplugs and go introduce yourself. Those of you who appreciate bagpipes and would like to hear the Fort Collins Pipe Band in a more bagpipey environment can find it at the 48th Annual Colorado Scottish Festival & Rocky Mountain Highland Games this weekend in Highlands Ranch.

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