by BRAD ROLLINS
While emphasizing education and outreach as keys to curbing rowdy university student behavior, a city staff task force is recommending a range of tougher ordinances to cutting down on noise and other nuisance behavior.
In unveiling the group’s recommendations to the San Marcos city council on Tuesday, assistant police chief Lisa Dvorak asked policymakers for initial approval to pursue expanded authority for police officers to respond to problematic behavior usually attributed to younger residents who live in and around family-dominated neighborhoods.
- Rewriting the city’s noise ordinance to make illegal any “noise extending beyond the property line” of a residence. The city current ordinance prohibits “unreasonable noise,” giving officers broad discretion to decide whether noise coming from a residence is disruptive to surrounding homeowners or renters.
- Expanding the city’s host responsibility ordinance to include a number of new violations including public urination, property destruction, fights and arguments or “conduct or conditions that endanger safety or health of a neighborhood.” The existing host responsibility ordinance allows officers to ticket residents who throw parties in their homes for the illegal behavior of their guests but is limited to noise, alcohol and littering offenses.
- Streamlining a “nuisance ordinance” already on the books which allows the city to condemn properties with repeated criminal offenses. The current ordinance sets too high a bar for proving a residence meets the standard of a nuisance property as defined by the ordinance, officials said.
- Establishing officers’ authority to declare a party an “unruly gathering” and disperse participants.
The proposals drew the ire of city council member Chris Jones who questioned whether the host responsibility ordinance expansion in particular is so broad as to basically make all parties potentially illegally. Mayor Susan Narvaiz said the changes would “add teeth” to the noise and host responsibility ordinances originally adopted in 2002.
Dvorak said the proposed changes can be ready for city council consideration within 60 days.