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Archive for Saturday, September 24, 2005

Lawrence to review ‘party’ ordinance

September 24, 2005

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City attorneys confirmed to neighbors Friday that they have not prosecuted anyone under a much-touted "disorderly house" ordinance that was adopted by the city five years ago.

The ordinance was designed to give neighbors and police a new tool to deal with houses that are the sites of frequent parties and other disturbances, by attempting to hold property owners - in addition to tenants - liable for disruptive behavior.

But when a member of the Centennial Neighborhood Assn. tried to have the ordinance enforced to deal with two noisy homes, neighbors became disenchanted with what they found.

"We started to review the ordinance and were surprised to learn that it wasn't very strong," said Tom Harper, a member of the neighborhood association. "It didn't have any teeth."

The homeowner eventually ended up selling her Centennial home less than a year after buying it, Harper said, because she couldn't stand living next to the noisy neighbors.

"I feel like we really failed her," Harper said.

The current ordinance requires tenants of the property to be convicted two times within one year of disruptive behavior before the property owner can be taken to court. Neighbors said that made the ordinance all but unenforceable because it often takes a couple of months for a case to come to trial in Municipal Court.

City commissioners who attended the neighborhood meeting at City Hall said they're open to changing the ordinance.

"I hate to see us have anything on the books that we can't enforce," said City Commissioner David Schauner. "If we need to throw the current one out, that's fine, but let's hear from staff what we can do to replace it."

Staff members said the police department had changed its procedures for responding to violations of the city's noise ordinance, which is a different ordinance than the disorderly house law, but may help address neighborhood concerns.

Police Chief Ron Olin said his department had issued 147 citations for violating the city's noise ordinance so far in 2005, up from 48 for all of 2004.

Police officers are no longer required to get a neighbor to agree to be a witness to the violation before writing a ticket. Now police officers can be witnesses to the violation if they hear the excessive noise.

Mayor Boog Highberger directed staff members to prepare a report on the issue and bring it to the City Commission in about a month.

Comments

smitty 8 years, 6 months ago

This is at least the third article stating Olin made internal changes that allowed for the enforcement of the noise laws using an ordiance that existed prior to the creation of the newer law. Why weren't the noise laws enforced prior to the city commission and legal staff creating the newer, unenforcable ordinance?

Olin made a change to the internal policies of the lpd to allow for the now higher numbers of enforcement. Olin's management of his officers is the problem. Why is Olin allowed to ignore the city laws until it creates a pressure situation for the commissoners? Why is Olin allowed to jerk around all of the city like this and get away with it? Why are Wildgen and the commissioners allowing the obvious? A con job is a con job.

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christie 8 years, 7 months ago

Loud is just part of the problem. The bottom line is 100's of kids descend upon a house and wreck havoc on entire neighborhoods. Kids thowing their bottles and cans everywhere, urinating in peoples yards, bumping cars, etc.

The police in this town are as chicken-#### as they come. I've called the police many times and they either don't show up or they cruise by and never even get out of their cars.

I finally started videotaping the problem, and sent a copy to the owner of the house. I contacted an attorney and we threatened a law suit. Basically stated that the value of my property was in decline because of the ill repair of this house and the nusiance.

A week later these kids were gone.

It's all about money people.

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red6102003 8 years, 7 months ago

The reason the tickets are up this year are because of the smoking ban.More people are staying home and throwing parties rather than going out to bars and supporting the local economy.And the non smokers are staying home and complaining.

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Harry_Manback 8 years, 7 months ago

Why would you move to a neighborhood with a high population of young people and students if you expected quiet and privacy? There are other parts of town where a person would never have to worry about noise complaints. Why not move there, and let college kids have their fun while they can.

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usaschools 8 years, 7 months ago

This ordinance, and the sound ordinance, are really anti-music ordinances that have seriously hurt the Lawrence music scene and the traditions of rent parties and the like. I do believe that neighbors should have some protections from people who do not respect those around them and have loud parties over and over again, but those who enjoy an occasional loud party (I'd say 2 a year would be within one's rights) should not be forced to NEVER have a loud party because they have a stick-in-the mud party pooper neighbor who thinks they are the only person in the neigborhood with rights. The right to silence has no greater weight than the right to make noise! This is still a free country after all.
Parties have their place. Invite your neighbors when you have one. Tell them in advance. Ask them to call you instead of the police. When they do call you, be polite! Neighborhood associations would have more success if they promoted the rights of both sides and tried to encourage people to work these things out by compromise, being reasonable, and talking rationally, rather than calling the police. The bottom line: Anyone has the right to the occasional noisy party. No one has the right to quiet 365 days per year. It is unreasonable and one-sided.

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nekansan 8 years, 7 months ago

How is the lack of prosecution the fault of the police chief? According to the artice they police have issued 147 citations for excessive noise. Sounds to me like they are doing their job. And it certainly can't be their fault if you dont like the way the ordinance is written. The police don't write laws or charge the cases, they simply generate a report of what happened. It's up to the city attorney to charge & prosecute the crime and they are certainly capable of charging people under the nusiance law if they choose to do so.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods has vowed to stand beside Tom Harper on this matter. It sometimes appears that ordinances are passed to shut the neighborhoods up.

If ordinances have no real big teeth police officers likely see no reason to pursue as it becomes a waste of their time. Large mandatory fines will get the attention of someone whereas a $25 fine is no big deal.

The question then becomes what other matters has the police department chosen to ignore?

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smitty 8 years, 7 months ago

Don't ya just love to see the neighborhood associations have to clean up what the high paid legal staff and police chief's incompetence cause?

Where's the rest of the story? Half@ss ordinances, half@ss reporting too. Why has this ordinance been in place five years and the police chief knew that it was unenforceable? Why is the police chief able to respond to the noise problems with an already existing ordinance but failed to do so for four years after the newer ordinace or even prior to the newer ordinance? Why didn't the city know the already existing ordiance would work prior to the creation of the unenforceable one? What took Olin so long to address this problem with a simple change to internal procedures? Doesn't the legal staff of city hall review these ordinances prior to passing? Doesn't the legal staff and Olin communicate on the enforcement powers of new ordinaces? Why is it a neighborhood organization must come forward to straighten out what the city and their department heads have screwed up for so many years?

Looks to me that the city legal staff and the police are far from competent in our fair city. If this is some bs political fight between the powers that be, then hang them all and let's start over. Start with Wildgen's inablity to manage department heads and Olin's long term reputation of secrecy and denial and cover ups of internal problems.

Thank you to the Centennial neighborhood association for taking a stand.

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