Residents unsure of party ordinance
Jenn Metz and Joe McMahon | Monday, September 10, 2007
One week before the public hearing of the Common Council’s proposed party ordinance, a number of South Bend residents said there are indeed problems with rowdy student neighbors – though not ones the ordinance would necessarily solve.
The ordinance would require residents of boarding houses – defined as homes where more than two unrelated persons live – to apply for a permit to host gatherings at which more than 25 people would have access to alcohol. The ordinance, proposed this summer, will be heard Sept. 17 at the South Bend City-County Building.
Some student renters – and their late night visitors – detract from the home lives of their neighbors when they mark each weekend by littering beer cans to the street or causing noise so loud it wakes neighborhood children, residents told The Observer Sunday.
John Whelan, who lives on Notre Dame Avenue, does not know if the proposed ordinance will be effective, but is glad the “real problem of out-of-control student behavior” is being addressed.
“Being a Notre Dame Avenue resident, the problem is real – drunk students urinating, defacing property and committing vandalism,” he said.
That large parties are frequently followed by student transgressions ranging from the inconsiderate to the egregious is not surprising to residents of the highly student-populated neighborhoods surrounding the University
Notre Dame Avenue resident Janet Jessup’s main complaint was the noise – particularly in the early hours of the morning, when her children are sleeping. Students walking back from late-night parties frequently cause enough noise to wake her family inside their house, she said.
“I have kids who have to get up for school,” she said.
The members of the Phillips family, who live at 902 E. Washington Street, are some of the only non-students in their neighborhood, which is lined by houses rented to students by landlord Mark Kramer.
It is a neighborhood that gets rowdy.
“Kramer has turned Washington Street into a party Mecca,” James Phillips said.
The family has lived in the house for 15 years and has long endured the noise and disruption from parties.
They did not complain about their student neighbors, but rather the hundreds of other University – and high school – students who flock to the street each weekend.
“It has turned my life and marriage into a pressure cooker,” Heidi Phillips said. “Our life has been ugly here.”
Students who choose to live off campus need to treat their new communities with respect, she said.
“If you live in the neighborhood, you are expected to be a responsible citizen of the city,” she said.
James Phillips agreed.
“Students feel they’ve bought the right to party,” he said. “You haven’t bought that right. It can be taken away.”
The Phillips call in noise complaints “quite often,” but are never satisfied with the results, they said.
The ordinance, if passed, could help the situation by “giving law enforcement the tools they need to keep order,” James Phillips said.
In a move he said could help ease tensions between students and the community, Kramer hosted a block party Sunday afternoon on Notre Dame Avenue between Howard Street and Corby Boulevard.
The crowd, split between students and other residents, numbered about 30.
Tom Guinan and Jean McManus, like many residents who chose to attend, reported favorable impressions of the student population – at least during the week.
Guinan, a local resident, said the students bring “funkiness” to the neighborhood. He disagreed with the tone set by passing new laws regulating student behavior.
“The ordinance breeds ill will,” he said.
McManus, who lives on the corner of Notre Dame Avenue and Howard Street, said she has had predominantly good experiences with students.
“I love seeing the students – they’re very friendly,” Jean McManus said.
However, “there’s the occasional person who’s just rude,” she said.
Neither residents at the block party nor those at their homes expressed high confidence that an ordinance or similar legislation would have lasting impact on long-established patterns of student behavior.
Jessup, whose child was awoken by noise from student neighbors on school nights, said an ideal solution would depend on communication and respect within the community, rather than oversight and enforcement from the law.
“It starts with relationships,” Jessup said. “We need to build something that will work to help the situation stay under control. If that could be accomplished without the ordinance, that’s great.”
While students need be considerate to their neighbors, she said, some of those neighbors might remember what it was like to blow off steam after a week of studying.
“We were students once,” Jessup said. “We understand kids and college.”