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FREQUENTLY ASKED-ABOUT ORDINANCES

The MRL fields many questions about city ordinances, and below are some of the most common topics. These summaries are meant only as general information and not as legal interpretation or advice. Please consult the actual section numbers for the complete, official language of the ordinance. Full chapters of the City Charter and Code of Ordinances are available in PDF format here. Most complaints regarding nuisances and code enforcement are handled by the Department of Neighborhood Services, 414-286-2268.

ANIMALS (PETS, CHICKENS, BEES, AND OTHERS):

Chapter 78 contains ordinances regulating which animals are and are not allowed to be kept in the city. Ord. 78-19 requires animals to be leashed or confined and their waste to be collected and disposed of properly.

FIREWORKS:

The city bans the sale and use of all fireworks/firecrackers and other materials, including sparklers and caps, under Ord. 105-47.

GARBAGE CARTS:

Ord. 79-5 specifies where carts can be stored and, if set out for pickup, stipulates that they be returned to their storage area by 10:00 pm that day. Chapter 79 also regulates recycling and composting. See the Department of Public Works’ Sanitation Services page for safe disposal practices, collection schedules, assistance for people who are elderly or have a disability, and more.

GARDENING IN THE PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY:

Ord. 116-54 allows for plantings in the strip between the sidewalk and the street, as long as they don’t obstruct pedestrians or block the view of motorists. See the full section for details.

GRASS:

Ord. 80-17-2 limits the height of turf grass to no more than 7 inches high. Ord. 80-67-4 prohibits running lawn mowers, garden tools, and other noisy machines from 9:00 pm through 8:00 am (except for snow-removal equipment).

GRILLS AND FIRE PITS:

Ord. 214-9 allows for backyard fire pits “built of metal, concrete or brick, well covered or screened to prevent the escape of sparking and burning embers” and placed at least 15 feet from any combustible structure. A charcoal or gas grill outside a single-family or 2-family home is exempt from the 15-feet requirement.

NOISE NUISANCES:

Ords. 80-64 and 80-65 list allowable noise levels during nighttime hours, defined as between 9:00 pm and 7:00 am (Ord. 80-60). This includes sound from music systems. Lawn mowers and other noisy equipment cannot be run before 8:00 am (Ord. 80-67-4). There are exceptions for snow blowers, construction sites, utility work, garbage collection, etc.

OFF-STREET PARKING:

Ord. 295-505-4b in the residential zoning code forbids parking in a front yard. Vehicles without license plates cannot be parked at a residence for more than thirty days, and no more than four vehicles can be parked outdoors on a single- or two-family home’s lot. Ord. 252-74 requires any off-street, outdoor parking space to have a paved surface.

ON-STREET REPAIR OF VEHICLES:

Except for urgent/emergency service, repairs and maintenance of motor vehicles is prohibited on city streets under Ord. 105-66

PLAYING IN STREETS & ALLEYS:

Loitering in roadways/impeding traffic is prohibited under state law, WI Statute 346.29 (2), which is adopted into Milwaukee’s code by Ord. 101-1.

RUMMAGE SALES:

Ord. 295-503-3-d states, "Not more than 2 rummage sales shall occur on a residential premises in one calendar year. No rummage sale shall exceed 3 days in length. Items offered for sale shall be limited to household items from one dwelling unit"

SIGNS ON PUBLIC PROPERTY:

Ord. 244-18 forbids temporary signs and advertisements on any public property with few exceptions. This includes within the right-of-way between a sidewalk and street, and on poles or trees.

SNOW:

Sidewalks must be cleared of snow and ice within 24 hours after precipitation has stopped (Ord. 116-8). Dumping snow onto a public way (street or alley) or onto private property other than your own is considered littering (defined in Ord. 79-1-7) and is prohibited under Ords. 79-11 and 79-12. Snow-removal equipment is exempt from nighttime noise restrictions (Ord. 80-67-4).

OTHER TOPICS/HELPFUL LINKS:

DRONE AIRCRAFT:

The city doesn’t have specific ordinances about drones because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates all U.S. airspace and issues rules for all unmanned aircraft, both commercial and hobbyist. See https://www.faa.gov/uas/

HOME IMPROVEMENT AND OTHER PERMITS:

Many projects around the house require permits, which are issued by the Department of Neighborhood Services. Check out their handy list here.

PARKING PERMITS, REGULATIONS, ETC:

Please see the Department of Public Works’ Parking Services pages.

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