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City unlikely to require permits yet

Karen Langley | Tuesday, September 18, 2007

After nearly four hours of discussion Monday night, the South Bend Common Council seemed poised to vote into effect a dramatically revised party permit ordinance which would not – for now – require any permits to be filed.

But after discussions in the Community Relations Committee, an illustrated PowerPoint presentation by sponsoring member Al “Buddy” Kirsits and comments by numerous residents, two points were raised that prompted Kirsits and co-sponsor Timothy Rouse to suggest the Council postpone a vote until it meets on Sept. 24.

Council members assured each other and the public that the repeatedly tabled ordinance – originally proposed in July – would finally see a vote at that meeting, as they want its provisions on lawn parking permits in place before the Oct. 13 home game against Boston College.

The twice-amended bill would create a Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) of 21 leaders from the city and colleges, including Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross and Indiana University South Bend. The CCAC would be charged with identifying neighborhood concerns related to college students and proposing relevant solutions.

Student body president Liz Brown called the CCAC a “major achievement for community relations.”

“While this coalition was created in response to the problem of disorderly students, my hope is that this body will serve as an arena to discuss the range of issues affecting area neighborhoods,” she told Council members.

The bill would also put on the books – but not implement – rules that would require residents of boarding houses to file for a permit before hosting a gathering at which 25 or more people would have access to alcohol. Unlike the previous proposal, however, this ordinance would require the permit be filed five rather than 10 days in advance.

The ordinance defines a boarding house as a residentially zoned building in which more than two unrelated people live together.

The regulations would primarily address large student parties.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” Kirsits said. “This is about those keggers.”

The party permit regulations would not go into effect without another vote by the Common Council. This could happen if there are more problems with off-campus student partying, Kirsits said after the meeting.

If the party permit segment is voted into effect, event sponsors will apply for permits that carry newly proscribed conditions. By accepting the event permit, the sponsor would agree to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent underage drinking, including controlling the access to and quantity of alcohol, checking guest IDs to verify their ages and supervising any minors at the party.

The ordinance retains the original $500 fee for a first failure to file an application, with $1,000 fines for any subsequent failures to file.

Kirsits was pleased with the amended ordinance, which he said represents compromise from both sides.

“I’ve seen the University step forward more than they have before,” Kirsits said. “[In past years], they would say if it’s off campus, it’s not our problem.”

The vote was delayed to allow two changes in the ordinance: to transfer permit administration responsibilities from the city clerk’s office to the city licensing office and to refine language in the lawn parking section of the ordinance, which Mayor Stephen Luecke said could allow an individual to purchase 365 separate one-day lawn parking permits for his property.

Kirsits introduced the amended bill at the Common Council meeting with a PowerPoint presentation featuring photographs of Solo cup-strewn lawns, which he said were scenes from the mornings after student parties.

Though the event permit regulations would apply to off-campus parties, Kirsits spoke of the general dangers of excessive drinking. His presentation included the numbers of ambulance calls to the Notre Dame campus during each fall weekend in 2005 and 2006 – calls for “basically intoxicated” students, he said.

He quoted extensively from a Sept. 13 Scholastic editorial charging students to improve their behavior, since, the editorial reads, “You can’t be unjustly persecuted for things you are actually doing.”

Marguerite Taylor, a resident of East Corby Boulevard, was unimpressed by claims of some council members and residents that students contribute to the city by bringing their spending money.

“They don’t bring me a dime,” she said.

The other day, she said, students threw a beer bottle through the window of her home, where she has lived for years.

“I pay taxes,” she said. “I vote. I have a right to live in peace.”

Former Notre Dame professor Don Snieowski, a resident of St. Peter’s Street, told council members he had doubts about the effectiveness of saving any implementation of the event permit regulations until further dialogue occurs.

“All these types of dialogue should happen,” he said, “but the dialoguing groups are almost incommensurate.”

As “transient residents,” students are not interested in investing themselves in their temporary neighborhoods – and that makes sense, he said.

“It is naive to think this dialogue is all we need,” he said.

After the meeting, Kirsits and Brown both said the ordinance will be passed Sept. 24.