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.