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Council passes revised ordinance

Karen Langley | Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This time, they voted.

The South Bend Common Council passed an amended form of the party permit ordinance Monday, drawing upon months of debates about off campus parties and, increasingly, dialogue between city and University voices about a wider range of shared issues.

The approved ordinance details – but does not activate – rules which would require residents of boarding houses to obtain a permit before hosting 25 or more guests who would have access to alcohol. The bill defines a boarding house as a residentially zoned building where more than two people live together. Residents would have to apply for a permit five days in advance.

Residents would not be required to register any parties unless the Common Council votes them into effect. Both Council member Al “Buddy” Kirsits, a sponsor of the bill, and South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke said future student behavior will determine whether that happens.

“If we find we’re not overrun with obnoxious, raucous parties we may never need to implement it,” Luecke said Monday. “If we have difficulties, then the Council has this option.”

The ordinance also outlines a Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) to help the Common Council identify neighborhood concerns related to the local colleges, propose solutions and develop long-term strategies.

Student body president Liz Brown, who has garnered praise from both the city and the University administration for her role in the ordinance debates, 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 during the Sept. 17 public hearing for the ordinance.

The CCAC will be comprised of the student body president and an administrative official from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross and Indiana University South Bend, as well as the mayor of South Bend, a landlord representative, Common Council members and others.

The group’s first meeting will be coordinated within the next few weeks, Luecke said after he left Monday’s Council meeting.

Though Brown voiced student opposition to early versions of the bill, which would have enacted a party permit requirement, she expressed support for the final version of the ordinance with its establishment of the CCAC.

“This cooperation and collaboration with the Common Council is unprecedented,” she said.

There was no extensive debate before the vote Monday. Public comments were heard Sept. 17, after which Council members decided to postpone their vote in order to make minor changes.

Council member David Varner praised the reasoned discourse that tamed an initially volatile proposal. He acknowledged that “certain segments” of the population felt targeted by the proposal when it was first presented but said the final draft “ends up being a win for everybody.”

“It’s about responsibility, not retribution,” Varner said.

Though the party permit requirements will not be implemented when the ordinance goes into effect Oct. 5 at midnight, any paperwork needed to immediately enact such a law is now on the books.

The permit rules – designed to locate a person responsible for each large event, Kirsits said – require an event sponsor to provide the city with his or her name and proof of identity along with information about the property ownership, number of people expected to attend, starting and ending times of the party and a description of the type of music which would be played.

If the rules are enacted, residents will be charged $5 to apply for a permit and an additional $15 if the permit is granted. Failure to file for a required permit would be subject to a $500 fine for a first offense and a $1,000 fine for each subsequent offense.

Kirsits emphasized the permit requirement would not be aimed at small gatherings.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” he said Sept. 17. “This is about those keggers.”

The ordinance is meant to cut down on any major disturbances in residential neighborhoods, he said – not just those caused by Notre Dame students.

“This isn’t about Notre Dame,” he said. “It’s about students moving off campus for the first time – it’s like ‘woohoo.'”

“There are rules of conduct in residential communities, whether you are students or 50-year old families.”

In addition to party permit legislation, the bill includes rules allowing residents to buy permits for lawn parking on Notre Dame home football weekends. The pairing of the two issues was cited at numerous meetings as a reason the ordinance was addressed without delay, as Council members sought to finalize lawn parking rules before the football season was well underway.