Maryland college town targets ‘unruly’ parties

Tension between the full-time residents of College Park, Maryland, and the students who rent homes next to them during the school year and sometimes host rowdy parties has existed for years. Now, local officials are considering a new way to crack down.

Next week, the city council will introduce an ordinance targeting “unruly social gatherings.”

Modeled after a law already on the books in Towson, Maryland, and other college towns around the country, it seeks to give the city new ways beyond the existing noise ordinance to crack down on parties that get out of hand.

“It does define an unruly social gathering as an event or an assemblage of four or more people,” said City Manager Scott Somers at a council hearing Tuesday.

He said behaviors that cross the line include underage drinking, “or behavior or conduct resulting in disturbance of the peace.”

Somers added that disturbance of the peace includes “excessive noise, excessive traffic (vehicle or pedestrian), controlled substances, public drunkenness. It’s not too hard to identify somebody as being drunk in public. Vandalism, public urination. I mean, you know it when you see it.”

Other behaviors that would put a house in violation of the new ordinance would include an obstruction of a city street or crowds that just spill over into the street, fighting and assaults, littering, or anything else the city said threatens public safety or the quiet enjoyment of residential property.

“It is broad,” Somers said. “It’s intentionally written broad.”

A first infraction at a home in College Park will result in a $500 fine for the resident in charge, as well as a written warning to the landlord. Subsequent violations will lead to $1,000 fines for residents and fines up to $1,000 for the landlords, too, depending on how many violations accrue.

The ordinance is expected to be introduced next week, and a public hearing and a vote would then come at a subsequent meeting. City leaders said it’s likely that by the time October rolls around, this new ordinance could be in effect.

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