‘Three strikes and you’re out’

Kristin Lindsey

Lengthy debate takes place over noise ordinance

For about two and a half hours last night, members of Kent City Council, members of the city’s administration and Kent residents debated the most effective way to deal with problems between Kent State students and other Kent residents.

Attendance was standing room only, and several people listened from the hall. In addition to landlords and neighbors, about a dozen Kent State students attended the meeting.

As of Sept. 16, 2004, the city has enforced an ordinance that allows the city to fine property owners if police respond to problems more than three times in a year. Since the ordinance’s acceptance, actions have been taken on 73 properties, and 24 of those have been criminally assessed, City Manager Dave Ruller said.

At the beginning of the council meeting, Ruller presented a PowerPoint presentation detailing nuisance issues as he perceives them. He also briefly mentioned the four aspects of Councilman Ed Bargerstock’s action plan: trash citations, private parking, visitor registration and occupancy limits.

After Ruller’s presentation, Kent City Police Chief James Peach spoke about his perception of the current ordinance.

A typical fine runs between $80 and $90, but some assessments have been as high as $180 for repeat offenders, Peach said. Although the current ordinance takes about nine hours per week to process, Peach said it is the most cost-effective plan he is aware of at this time.

“Let’s stay the course,” Peach said. “Let’s see the results, and see what effects this has on the community.”

Later, the full text of Bargerstock’s plan was presented while council members commented on each point.

Point three of the plan, which would force occupants of legal boarding houses to register with the owners, caused the most controversy. Under the plan, unregistered occupants would face criminal citations.

Law Director James Silver said he thinks the idea of registration raises constitutional issues, and he advises against it.

When residents got their chance to speak, little attention was given to Bargerstock’s plan. Instead, they criticized the current plan.

Steve Molesky, who owns houses on College Avenue, expressed his discontent with the current noise ordinance. He said he believes it is unconstitutional to hold one person accountable for another person’s actions.

One of Molesky’s tenants, Luke Gibson, is a junior pre-med major. He and neighbor Jenny Smas said they have received noise violations without neighbors’ complaints because police officers drove by and thought their parties were out of control. Smas, junior fashion design and merchandising major, said she once received a violation because she and eight of her house mates were on their front porch.

Gibson said he has researched the issue, and 366 noise violations have been given out in Kent within a three-month period.

The meeting concluded with council members’ comments and motions. Three motions were passed, and one motion, made by Bargerstock, was not. The final motion, made by Silver, received the greatest reaction from the crowd.

Silver suggested a “three strikes and you’re out” rule, which would result in a house being boarded up after occupants have received three violations for disturbing neighbors. He cautioned landlords to require full payment up front, so that if their rental house is boarded up, they will not lose money.

Contact public affairs reporter Kristin Lindsey at [email protected].