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Ordinance undergoes drastic changes

Kaitlyn Riely | Monday, September 17, 2007

Major changes have been made to the ordinance proposed by the South Bend Common Council to control student parties, said student body president Liz Brown, who expects that Council members will approve the ordinance at their meeting tonight.

The biggest modification is that the ordinance will not require residents of boarding houses – defined as houses where more than two unrelated people live – to register for a permit from the city before holding a gathering at which more than 25 people would have access to alcohol.

“Although the bill contains all the permit and registration language for social gatherings, it also stipulates that such a program will not be enacted unless a subsequent ordinance is passed by the Common Council, which would require another set of public hearings,” Brown said.

The new ordinance will also establish a community coalition composed of members of the Notre Dame and South Bend communities.

“We think it makes sense to bring together city officials and University officials and students and residents to discuss, not just student parties, but neighborhood watches … and anything that might come up,” Brown said.

She said the language regarding the coalition was still in the process of being finalized Sunday. The South Bend Community Relations meets Monday evening and will be followed by a public hearing at 6 p.m. to discuss the ordinance.

The newly drafted ordinance, Brown said, directs the Common Council to evaluate how well the coalition and other efforts to address the issue of disruptive student partying work – and if they do not work well, the option to revisit the registration process is still “on the table.”

“I’m happy with the way this has turned out,” Brown said.

Brown, along with student body vice president Maris Braun, was first alerted to the proposed ordinance in late July. Since then, she has met with Common Council members, South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke, representatives from the Police Department, city attorneys and University representatives.

Brown and Braun sent e-mails to the student body in August, before most students had returned to school, notifying them of the ordinance and student government’s actions to oppose its passage.

Eliminating the permit registration process and forming a community coalition are two objectives Brown has said she aimed for in the past month and a half. The original proposed ordinance – co-sponsored by Council members Timothy Rouse and Al “Buddy” Kirsits” – would have required residents of boarding houses to apply to the city for a permit at least 10 days before hosting an event with alcohol and more than 25 people. The application fee for an event permit would cost $15.

If that ordinance had passed, residents who did not register gatherings and were caught would be required to pay a $500 fine and a $1,000 fine for each subsequent violation.

The city administration proposed a revision of the ordinance in August that would have required event-holders to notify the police department 24 hours before the event, rather than submitting an application to the city 10 days in advance.

The current version of the ordinance – which does not stipulate a registration, notification or permit process – was the result of “honest, frank communications between everyone involved,” Brown said.

“I think it was probably refreshing for the city to see myself, as a representative of the students, and some representatives from the University to say, ‘This is something we take seriously, this is something we want to address, but let’s talk about how we can do it in other ways,'” Brown said.

Brown credited improved off-campus student behavior since the school year started for the changing direction of the ordinance. At student government meetings, Brown had urged students to be respectful to their South Bend neighbors.

“The biggest motivating factor [towards changing the ordinance] is students coming through and giving some legitimacy to my claims when I said we wanted to work on this,” she said.

Few parties have garnered complaints in the past few weeks, Brown said, and police have reported that students were cooperative if the police did show up.

Brown said building relations between the students and South Bend is an ongoing process.

“We need to continue to work hard with the city, with the community organizations to address these issues, but we have proven with our behaviors that there are other ways to address this issue,” she said.