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Party ordinance vote stalls again

Karen Langley | Wednesday, August 29, 2007

With the public hearing of the South Bend Common Council’s proposed party permit ordinance postponed once more, student body president Liz Brown said students should be aware their behavior this weekend could affect discussions between student and city leaders.

“The continuing progress is contingent on students’ behavior during next week,” Brown said. “If there are a lot of huge parties, a lot of my bargaining power will be lost.”

The Common Council has set Sept. 17 as the tentative date for the public hearing of the ordinance, which would require residents of boarding houses to notify the city before hosting an event at which more than 25 people would have access to alcohol.

A boarding house is defined as a building in a residentially zoned area in which more than two non-related people live. Brown wasn’t sure if the proposed legislation applies to apartments.

Brown and student body vice president Maris Braun have been in discussion with council members since the bill was proposed, pushing them to reconsider the ordinance.

“The goal the entire time is to have a permit process completely removed and pursue other avenues to address disorderly parties,” Brown said.

But Council member Al “Buddy” Kirsits, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, sees the ordinance as necessary to address the recurring issue of raucous student parties.

“[We need to] tell people of the behavior we expect of them in our community,” Kirsits said at the Aug. 20 Common Council Community Relations Committee meeting. “I don’t see this as that big of a deal. It might be to some people who have that ‘anything goes’ mentality.”

The proposed ordinance currently exists in two forms, each of which would require a different length of advance notice to the city about any event. The bill designed by sponsoring members Timothy Rouse and Kirsits would require the host to notify the city at least 10 days before any event, while the working draft of a proposal by the city administration would require only 24 hours notice.

The ordinance has inflamed discussion among Notre Dame students since Brown notified the student body in an e-mail Aug. 4.

The proposed ordinance was subject to a public hearing Aug. 2. Week after week, public hearings have been postponed.

Brown has talked to city officials about a set of initiatives through which student government would take additional responsibility for off-campus violations by students. She will meet with Council members and the mayor this week, she said.

“I’m hoping something bigger comes out of this,” she said, “with a larger, more stable continued avenue for continued dialogue between the University’s student body and the city.”

She cited the Community Relations Coalition that was formed in East Lansing to facilitate dialogue between the students of Michigan State University and the surrounding community.

If passed, the ordinance will be enforced by levying fines on any violators. If residents do not register a gathering and they are caught, they will be subjected to an initial $500 fine and then $1,000 on each subsequent violation.

Sponsors who file applications will still be subjected to public nuisance fines for any other violations. These fines would be $50 on a first violation, $100 on a second violation and $200 on any subsequent violation.

The application fee for an event permit would be $15.

Questions have been raised during Community Relations Committee meetings about the enforceability and legality of the ordinance.

In all versions of the proposed ordinance, rules relating to boarding house events are accompanied by regulations to allow currently banned lawn parking during Notre Dame home football games.