9-year-old asks town to repeal ordinance that bans snowball fights
SEVERANCE — Dane Best, 9, already knows who he wants to hit with his first snowball when it becomes legal to throw one in Severance.
When members of the town board asked him as much during a meeting at the beginning of November, he pointed to his little brother, Dax, 4.
His mom, Brooke Best, said Dane has been talking about snowballs for a month-and-a-half — since he found out that it’s illegal to throw them in town limits of Severance, a small town in Weld County. The last time it snowed, Dane and his friends looked over their shoulders for the police and joked about breaking the law.
“I think it’s an outdated law,” Dane said. “I want to be able to throw a snowball without getting in trouble.”
Dane will present a list of reasons why the Severance Town Board should repeal an ordinance that bans people from throwing snowballs in town limits during the board’s regular meeting Monday at Severance Town Hall, 3 Timber Ridge Parkway.
Kyle Rietkerk, the assistant to the Severance town administrator, said he doesn’t expect the town board to put up too much of a fight — officials have been trying get an elementary-schooler interested in repealing part of the ordinance’s language for about four years.
When Range View Elementary School students visit Severance Town Hall every year as part of a field trip, Rietkerk said, Mayor Donald McLeod and town board members tell the students about the rule, which is part of a larger ordinance that makes it illegal in Severance to throw or shoot stones or missiles at people, animals, buildings, trees, any other public or private property or vehicles.
Snowballs, Rietkerk said, fall under the town’s definition of “missiles.” Town officials said they think it’s been technically illegal to throw snowballs in Severance since the town was founded, making the rule nearly a century old. The ban is not enforced, Rietkerk said, but the ordinance still makes it illegal for Dane and his fellow Severance residents to throw snowballs.
“All of the kids always get blown away that it’s illegal to have snowball fights in Severance,” Rietkerk said. “So, what ends up happening is they always encourage the kids with, ‘You have the power you can change the law.’ No one has.”
No one until Dane.
While no one knows for sure, Dane said he thinks the town put the ordinance into place because kids might have thrown snowballs at people’s windows, causing damage.
But Dane said he plans to assure the town board that he’ll never throw a snowball with a rock inside.
“And I wouldn’t throw it at windows,” he said.
Throughout the process, Brooke Best said Dane has learned a lot about how local government works. His class at Range View Elementary wrote letters in support of the change to the ordinance, and for more than a month, the family has spent time researching other Severance ordinances, including one that defines “pets” only as cats and dogs. Dane said he has a guinea pig. That’s illegal in Severance, too.
If Dane is successful in convincing the board to repeal the ordinance, it will become legal to have snowball fights immediately. It will still be illegal to throw or shoot stones at people, animals, buildings, trees and other private property.“We didn’t know that, at his age, he could even have a voice in the community,” Best said. “So that’s been pretty cool.”
“If we actually had snow on the ground, we could throw the first legal snowball ever,” Rietkerk said.
But it wouldn’t be the first snowball ever. In a conference room at the Severance Town Hall last week, Rietkerk covered his ears. Dane admitted to throwing a snowball.
“I didn’t know it was the law, though,” he said.
— Sara Knuth covers government for The Tribune. You can reach her at (970) 392-4412, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraKnuth.