San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 9th, 2009
San Marcos council passes noise law

Texas State student council liaison Chris Covo thinks about how a new host responsibility ordinance might impact students. San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca is in the background. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

Associate Editor

San Marcos City Council approved a new noise and host responsibility ordinance Tuesday night by an easy 6-1 vote, though that one dissenter didn’t make the discussion easy.

Councilmember Chris Jones opposed the ordinance after amendments he proposed gained no traction. When the council passed the ordinance on first reading last month, Jones insisted that the council include some kind of provisions for what constitutes a “prudent party host,” so as to inform citizens about what steps would inure them from prosecution.

“The reason I wrote the amendments was not for (San Marcos Police) Chief (Howard) Williams, but for the students and the citizens to understand (the ordinance),” Jones said.

Jones proposed what he called “clear standards” for city residents to specifically understand what actions could potentially put them in violation of the law. He said the proposed amendments would reduce vagueness without hindering the police. Jones’ proposals included violation specifications on time of day, decibel levels, and an increase from “more than one” to at least five partygoers. The rest of the council did not bite.

Opponents of the ordinance revision argue that the ordinance’s language leaves police discretion open. Texas State University student leaders have voiced concern that student “profiling” may be an underlying issue, as well.

“Although this ordinance may not be ideal for the student community, it will serve as a common ground between our peers and the city,” said Christopher Covo, city council liaison and university president-elect, as he read the university’s Associated Student Government (ASG) position on the legislation. “…Students are trusting that all citizens will be treated equally (by police) no matter their age or affiliation to this university.”

An ad hoc committee comprised of city staff, Jones and Councilmembers Kim Porterfield, John Thomaides was charged with proposing less vague language and added a preamble to the ordinance. The addition, Thomaides said, concentrates in providing information on what the ordinance’s intent is, and what the new changes are.

The city has continuously been troubled by noise complaints. An ordinance to alleviate such problems has been in the making for at least two years.

“I think we all agree in spirit that we want this to be concrete and to work,” Porterfield said.

In efforts to see the “whole picture”, councilmembers summoned the opinion of all parties affected. However not all were forthcoming. Municipal Judge John Burke declined to speak before city council on the ordinance or its language, saying that it causes conflict of interest as it can presume how he will rule in future cases.

The ordinance defines “excessive noise” as noise extending beyond property lines, although police officers can arbitrate the violation based on time of day and size of the gathering. The ordinance also provides officers with authority to disperse any “unruly gathering,” as well as assess fines to property owners.

The ordinance defines an “unruly gathering” as an assembly of more than one person partaking in more than one of the following conditions or events on public or private property within the city:

·         Rioting;

·         Unlawful sale, furnishing, possession, or consumption of alcoholic beverages;

·         Destruction of property;

·         Obstruction of roadways, driveways, or public ways by crowds or vehicles;

·         Excessive noise;

·         Disturbances, fights, brawls, or quarrels;

·         Public urination or defecation;

·         Indecent or obscene conduct or exposure.

Property owners now are on the hook, as well. If two verified violations on the property take place and the owner or manager doesn’t contact the police within ten days to work out a plan to stop those infractions, then those property owners can be assessed fees of $100 for each related police response.

If the property owner and police make an agreement to eliminate further violations, then a violation occurs within 90 days, the property owner will be assessed a $300 charge – $100 for the violation after the agreement, and $100 for each of the previous two police visits.

The ordinance will go into effect on May 12.

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25 thoughts on “San Marcos council passes noise law

  1. Ridiculous! We already have provisions in place to address these issues. The police just want more discretionary authority, and are hiding under the auspices of noise complaints. This is a ploy to further an already over reaching government. It will be intreating to see if this ordinance does actually make a difference. In my opinion, it won’t. It’ll just promote more harassment of students, and more revenue for the department at the expense of property owners. It’s a shame nobody backed Chris up, I figured Thomaides would have, he seems to be among the most sensible of the incompetent council.

  2. I meant interesting, not intreating. Sorry I was of on a rant, lol. But seriously I can’t wait to see the statistics of improvement, if any.

  3. John, the stats do not exist except in the minds of the those desiring more discretionary POWER. In all sincerity, Mr. Thomaides I voted for you and I won’t make the same mistake twice.

  4. Perhaps Andy Sevilla, the author, can request an open records to see how many citations are given out, as opposed to when this specific ordinance wasn’t in place. Or look to find out how many property owners have been charged the $100. I’m not a journalist so I don’t know what angle to take or what exactly needs to be done, but I know statistics can be brought forth. I just think its important to see if this abuse of powerwas granted for and with reason.
    Also, I’m not tremendously happy with John Thomaides, but I do think he is needed in our council. Otherwise we’re doomed with nothing but a special interest majority. Excluding of course, Mr. Bose and more often than not, Chris Jones.

  5. John, the animal, curfew, and noise ordinances all have this pungent odor that has my mental olfactory working overtime, permutations of reverse onus perhaps?

  6. Perhaps you are correct about Mr. Thomaides, but if he is planning to run for mayor next cycle then he needs to step up to the plate more often than not..

  7. I don’t know if you’re privy to some details that I am not. But I wasn’t aware he’s goingto run for Mayor in 2010. He does however have an election in November, I’m positive he’ll seek reelection. So yes, I agree he needs to step up and quit playing safe.

  8. But anyway, this ordinance, in my opinion is not, was not, has never been necessary. There already is an ordinance in place that addresses this matter. This is just an abuse of power. A way to cite more people. And and its a way of making public service in San Marcos less attractive, more over reaching, more corrupt and more easy for officers and the city.

  9. The spirit of the ordinance is indeed well intended. However, I have to agree that perhaps this avenue was not needed. We do have measures already in place that prevent excessive noise and the likes. I do feel that city council is better fit addressing real solutions, and not allowing our police officers more arbitrary power. Defining excessive noise as any noise that goes beyond property line, can be a little to strict, given that 70% of our population lives in apartments. Everything would be considered excessive noise in an apartment complex. I’ve lived in apartments a time ago, and I remeber that I could tell you exactly what my neighbors were doing, what they were watching, when they were in the kitchen. That was not excessive noise, it was normal activity. This ordinance goes too far, and I’m surprised Porterfield and Thomaides didnt back Jones up with his amendments. Jones really does get it, he understands what the citizens want and need.
    On another note, our city will never allow for Porterfield to be Mayor. Thomaides had an extremely good chance at taking that one.

  10. Oh and congratulations to Chris Covo for standing up to council and expressing the concerns of a mass of the constiuency, the students. Also congrats to him for winning the presidency of ASG. He so cute. lol

  11. Instead of making more powergrabbing legislation, Chief Williams should be more concerned about not letting ordinances expire and continue writing citations for a non-existing law! Incompetency everywhere in city government.
    Oh and Mayor Porterfield – NEVER! Our city would not allow that catastrophe to happen.

  12. I didn’t mean anything of the like – Angel. I just think he’s soo cute, standing up to council and winning the ASG presidency. I could be his grandmother, well more like an older aunt, lol.

  13. I just left the bars on the square, a little before midnight so I could beat the crowd. I will now be heading to a party that will more than likely get unruly. I will enjoy it even more now, because city council has decided to provide officers with more discretionary authority. I know the police will probably be looking for us, the students, tonight. Well come find us! We’ll be the loud ones, drinking and obstructing the driveway.

  14. Ok Texas State has it’s own University police. What did Kim do so wrong. Are you all saying that everyone votes with the mayor? I agree Thomaides had his chance to run for some reason he didn’t.

  15. Mr. Thomaides formed an exploratory committee for mayorship, but, I estimate that the support was not there, yet it is my understanding that he lives for the day he will be elected mayor. Regarding Ms. Poterfield as a potential candidate for mayor, I’d rather not. Perhaps Mr. Prather will be back in time and run for mayor, he most definitely could do admirably at that position.

  16. Thomaides for mayor? Ugh, that’s like wanting Bush to be President again! or maybe more like Darth Vader, I mean Dick Cheney! Enough of the incompetent politicians with narrow tunnel vision! We need leadership that cares about the WHOLE city!

  17. Sterling, David, and Angel…. who is “Poterfield”? There is no potential mayorial candidate with that name, nor any current elected official with that name!
    Yea, I know who you meant—but if the three of you are going to be critical of her, shouldn’t you at least be intelligent enough to get her name right??? Hint: check out the city website, they can spell! And while you are there, check out the library website for free remedial reading and spelling courses and books.

  18. Andrew, I believe it to be a play on words, Porterfield, Potters Field where expired ideals go to rest.

  19. The part about not profiling students is completely untrue. This new “discretion” will be used against STUDENTS, because no matter your age, level of intelligence, or maturity they see students as peons that don’t know how to abide by the rules. I am all for keeping the noise level down in San Marcos, however, I am certainly against being classfield as hellions just because of age.

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