February 24, 2004

Student Noise Raises Concerns at Council

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A meeting between the Ithaca Common Council and community residents last night raised a chorus of opinions regarding changes to a proposed noise ordinance, but resulted in little consensus over its implementation.

Residents, students and landlords gathered at City Hall to voice their concerns with the new legislation, which aims at reducing disturbing or destructive student parties through stiffer penalties and tougher enforcement. Many Ithacans argued that out-of-control festivities in Collegetown and elsewhere had led to damage, littering and loud, sleepless nights for nearby residents.

“College revelry does not mean this kind of party,” said Sally J. Lockwood, a South Hill resident. “… [this] behavior [has] caused some of us to fear for our safety.”

“There needs to be a collaborative effort,” said Fay Gougakis, a 20-year Ithaca resident. “When [students] have parties like that, Cornell and Ithaca College should be picking up the tab.”

Student Concerns

Some students contended at the meeting that renters are often unaware of city noise restrictions, and warned that increasing penalties could further strain relations between students and residents. Other students were concerned that a portion of the ordinance, which provides higher fines for specific aggravated noise offenses, including the presence of a keg or a live band, unfairly targeted them with more severe penalties.

“I sympathize with the residents, but simply restricting the college student more than the general populace is going to cause tensions to run higher than they already are,” said Devan Musser ’06.

Jeff Massa ’05, president of the Interfraternity Council, agreed, saying that the ordinance discriminated against students. He asked the audience how many non-students had hosted parties where aggravated offenses such as underage drinking or public urination had occurred. “These … offenses clearly and blatantly are targeting college students.”

Ithaca resident Graham Kerslick disagreed, saying “I certainly don’t see this legislation as being directed towards students. We need some tools to help the police enforce these regulations.”

Landlords also expressed concern about a proposed change which would make property owners responsible for their tenants’ violations, which could include fines as high as $2,000 for a repeated, aggravated offense.

“I am outraged at the idea that you feel you can lay this on the landlords,” said Bob Terry, a local property owner. “If one of my tenants holds up a store, am I responsible?”

Following the portion of meeting devoted to public participation, the Common Council examined the language of the proposed changes in detail, but determined that most of the articles in question needed to be re-worked and examined again at a later meeting. The provisions most debated included those providing for repeat citations in a single night, the use of aggravated noise offenses, and liability for landlords whose tenants received violations.

Council member Gayraud Townsend ’05 argued that the Common Council should conduct more research into other college cities’ noise policies, in addition to the East Lansing, Michigan code on which sections of Ithaca’s proposed ordinance are based.

“We can use Lansing as a model but not the only model,” Townsend said.

“The … noise ordinance targets students, it doesn’t address the specific problem. It’s too broad,” said council member Michael Taylor ’05. “Let’s think about other ways to focus on the enforcement of existing laws.”

The Common Council has set a target date of March 30 for a final vote on the ordinance, a date which Taylor said was likely to be delayed.

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco