A quick show of hands Monday indicated strong, but not unanimous, support for a proposed ordinance change in Grand Forks.
City Council Member Danny Weigel, a UND police officer, asked the 30 or so attendees at a ward meeting if they were on board with his proposal to change violations of the city’s noisy party ordinance from a criminal one to a non-criminal one -- more or less downgrading it from a misdemeanor to an infraction. More than half of attendees raised their hand.
The change would allow university police to enforce the city ordinance themselves, according to Weigel. Currently, campus cops can’t issue citations for criminal violations of city ordinances, which means decriminalizing noisy parties would allow them to ding partygoers themselves, rather than deferring to city police, who have no such restriction. If UND police could enforce the ordinance, it would free up city police to respond to gnarlier problems in the city’s downtown and elsewhere, Weigel said.
If enacted, the change would be a citywide one, but it might impact UND students more acutely. Weigel co-hosted the ward meeting with City Council Member Katie Dachtler. Their wards encompass the university’s campus.
Some at the meeting worry college kids might not be deterred by the smaller penalty for hosting a noisy party, which would amount to a fine of $300 to $500. Weigel stressed that violators could still be charged more harshly after a first violation.
And attendees produced anecdote after anecdote about UND students urinating outdoors, drunkenly falling from rooftops or blaring music late into the night. But their complaints weren’t limited to students: Many characterized the landlords who rent houses or apartments to those students as indifferent or unresponsive to the residents’ worries about safety and order. City staff solicited the names of problem landlords and may research potential changes to the city policies that govern them.
City Council members are set to consider the noisy party ordinance change at their next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 3. Ordinance changes require two separate council votes before they’re enacted.
But Weigel said the change could ultimately be a stop-gap measure because he’ll push Grand Forks-area lawmakers to create an exception to a 2017 North Dakota law that limits which types of charges are heard by state- and city-level courts.
Grand Forks police are “ambivalent” about the proposed change, , City Administrator Todd Feland said. Police Chief Mark Nelson told Weigel and other assembled City Council members in June that he didn’t think a fine would be enough of a deterrent to break up loud parties.
Yes 52% No 48%
Should the penalty for a noisy party infraction be downgraded from a misdemeanor to an infraction?
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