By SEAN WARDWELL
The San Marcos City Council is looking at a tough ordinance revision designed to keep unruly gatherings at bay. Texas State student leaders are keeping an eye on the revision, concerned that it might target student residents.
Council will consider a revision of the city’s “host responsibility” ordinance, which deals with matters such as trash and noise, at Tuesday’s meeting.
The revision defines an “unruly gathering” as, “… a gathering of more than one person which is conducted on premises within the city and which, by reason of the conduct of those persons in attendance, results in the occurrence of more than one of the following conditions or events on public or private property; rioting; the unlawful sale, furnishing, possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages; the destruction of property; obstruction of roadways, driveways, or public ways by crowds or vehicles; excessive noise; disturbances, brawls, fights, or quarrels; public urination or defecation; or indecent or obscene conduct or exposure.”
If passed, the revision will give police officers more discretion in citing noise violations, changing the standard for enforcement from “unlawful level of noise” to “excessive level of noise.”
The changes came at the request of city council, which previously expressed dissatisfaction with a state statute that holds up a “reasonable level of noise” as the standard for determining if a violation took place.
“There’s no major structural changes, per se,” San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams said. “One of the problems the council had is exactly what is a reasonable amount of noise. We’re changing the term and getting away from the state statute.”
The ordinance does not stop with enhanced discretionary powers for police officers responding to noise complaints.
New penalties would be set for leaving bulky waste out for more than a day before a pre-scheduled pick up. Offenders could be cited for health and sanitation violations with fines as high as $2,000. Williams told city staff in a memo that the measure “…is intended to curb the problems of trash during the changes of semesters.”
Said Chris Covo, Associated Student Government’s (ASG) City Council Liaison, “The wording on it makes a lot of people uneasy. We will take a position on this after we’ve had a chance to look it over thoroughly.”
The city council will hear the first of two readings Tuesday night. ASG will consider the ordinance in committee next week, hoping to bring suggestions and concerns to council in time for the second reading.
Camille Phillips, President of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) said her organization had no part in putting forward the proposed revision. However, she said the city needs measures to protect neighborhood integrity.
“The larger issues are related to economic development,” Phillips said. “We need to protect investments. I think neighborhoods are important because if we want our community to grow in a good way, we need better jobs and we have to have places for professionals to live. A person could drive around San Marcos and see a good house and see a house next to it with ten cars. How many people would want to buy that?”
Williams said factors such as time of day, location, how the noise is being made, and sound amplification will be considered among other factors in determining if some level of noise is “excessive.”
Not only would the host of an “unruly gathering” be punished under the revision, but so would persons attending such gatherings. Guests, both invited and uninvited, could face individual noise violations.
Property owners could face new penalties, as well. The revision would make it unlawful for any owner or manager to permit unruly gatherings in any common area of a property. Property owners also could be cited for not allowing police officers to disperse such gatherings.
Furthermore, the draft allows the city “…to permit a fee for police responses to a property owner who does not meet with the Police Department and come to an agreement to prevent further violations” after police have responded twice to noise complaints from a property. A successful agreement means no fee can be charged. Failure to meet with police, failure to come to an agreement, or an unsuccessful agreement may result in a fee of $100 per police response to future violations.
However, the draft also states, “If an agreement includes non-renewal of the lease or eviction, there will be no charge for police responses to the property if the lease termination or eviction occurs within 60 days of the date of the execution of the agreement.”Email | Print