Why Your Municipal Code Matters

What makes your code of ordinances the most important document in your municipality?

It’s more than just a collection of laws and regulations. It’s a statement. It’s your stake in the ground. It defines your community. Your municipal code tells the world what you value, what you will and won’t abide, and how you want to live. It also says a lot about how you view the future.

Taken piece by piece, your code answers the minutiae of everyday routines. It tells your residents where and when they can park cars on the street, if they need a permit to build a doghouse, if they can keep chickens in their backyards, where to put their leaves for collection in the Fall, and thousands of other details.

But seen in its entirety, your municipality’s code helps your residents to be good citizens, to be good neighbors, and how to maintain or grow the particular culture your community has built over its history. Every law in your code book is a vital element to constructing the kind of place where you want to reside, raise a family, and build a life.

What is your municipal code really saying about you?

When you legislate that an in-ground swimming pool must have a fence of a certain height and a gate that locks, you’re saying that you value the safety of children and pets. When you pass an ordinance that outdoor lighting may not shine into an adjacent property or that noise levels may not exceed specific decibels, you’re letting people know that your community is considerate of each homeowner’s comfort. And when you legislate about festivals and other events, and how vendors should conduct themselves, you’re demonstrating your support of local businesses and encouraging your citizens to socialize to create a greater sense of community.

How do you want your municipality to be viewed?

Does your code of ordinances say all that it should about your community? Do you want to be pet-friendly, business-friendly, family-friendly?

As you scan through the laws currently in your code, do they match up with the concept you have for your city, town, village, or borough? Does or should your municipal code speak to any of the following popular legislative topics?

  • Dog parks
  • Bike lanes
  • Skate parks
  • Property maintenance
  • Home businesses
  • Feeding wildlife
  • Discrimination policies
  • Food trucks
  • Landmark preservation
  • Recycling or composting

A municipal code should address and promote the principles and lifestyle components that are most essential to your community’s identity. It should be the foundation from which your municipality and citizens begin a journey forward to a vibrant and thriving future.

When was the last time your municipal code was reviewed?

Depending on how legislatively active your local government is will affect how much your code is in need of a review. But if your code of ordinances hasn’t had a thorough analysis in at least ten years, it’s probably outdated, may contain obsolete information, and is likely out of alignment with state statutes.

The content of a municipal code should be evolving and community-affirming. A code that is allowed to become stagnant cannot serve its purpose effectively. Citizens, business owners, developers, and municipal officials need a code that is accurate, easy to understand, and enforceable.

A legal and editorial review of your municipal code will identify conflicts, redundancies, and inconsistencies. It will help confirm there are no legislative gaps. And it will enable you to incorporate necessary revisions to ensure your code fully complies with your state’s statutes.

Provide your community with the framework it needs to be successful

A municipal code should be a living document that develops along with the community it serves.

A code that is out-of-step, unkept, and hard to access can leave a community feeling lost with no clear direction, or a sense of who it is. But a code that is consistent and well-organized is able to adapt with the growth and progression of its municipality to be a declaration of its character and to act as a guide to a sustainable, resilient, and fruitful future.

The next time you look at your municipal code, keep in mind that you’re not just looking at a volume of gathered laws, you’re looking at the definition of your community and where it’s headed.

Ensuring your municipal code is everything it can and should be

Working with a professional codifier will give you the confidence that your code is up-to-date, reliable, and enforceable. The unique skills and expertise of a professional codifier will keep your municipal code clear and understandable by all in your community. Professional codifiers ensure that all appropriate materials and legislation that impact your code are properly incorporated, current and consistent, and free of errors.


Do you have a codification project in mind or questions that our expert codifiers can answer for you? From creating a new code and putting it online to providing an in-depth analysis of your existing code and helping to make updates to your municipal code, General Code’s codification specialists are ready to help. To contact us, use our online contact form, call us at 800.836.8834 or email us at [email protected].

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