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Amended ordinance could spell trouble for off-campus living

April 7, 2017

At its meeting on Monday, the Brunswick Town Council passed an amendment (8-1) to the town’s disorderly property ordinance that intends to crack down on repeat offenders of the ordinance. The amendment extends the “reset period” for disorderly homes from 60 to 270 days.

The existing disorderly property ordinance was passed by the town in 2008 and allows Brunswick Police Department (BPD) to cite properties as disorderly if they are causing problems for neighbors, according to BPD Commander of Support Services Mark Waltz. After a third citation, BPD can issue the landlord a fine between $500 and $1,000.

“As it stands under the current ordinance, if your house is a disorderly house it would get a notice and then, after 60 days, if you’ve been good, you would start the process over. This [amendment] would extend that process out to 270 days,” said Town Manager John Eldridge.

“I would ask that we take this vote tonight—I think we’re coming up on party season,” said Brunswick Town Councilwoman Jane Millett last Monday night.

Waltz said that one off-campus residence where Bowdoin students live was cited both in the fall and earlier this semester. However, since the 60-day period had expired, the second warning counted as the first. By extending the reset period, the amendment will provide more opportunities for student houses to be cited as disorderly within the timeframe.

Waltz supported the amendment, citing the record number of students living off campus as cause of the increase in violations. He noted that the ordinance has been used against other town residents in addition to students.

“It’s not that the students are bad—it’s just that the lifestyle of a student is different from the lifestyle of a [Brunswick town] resident,” Waltz said in a phone interview with the Orient. “A lot of these families in town want to be asleep by 9 [p.m.], or at least have the neighborhood quiet, whereas a student’s night is just starting.”

Waltz met with College officials last Friday to discuss an increase in the number of disturbances reported this year. Two-hundred seventeen students are currently living off campus, a substantial increase compared to previous years. Next year, only 200 students will be allowed to live off campus.

“The community welcomes Bowdoin students and loves to have them here,” Waltz said. “I think there’s a lot of beneficial relationships, so the last thing I want to do is give the message that we don’t want to have students in the community, because to the contrary, we want students in the community. The thing that students want to keep in mind is that the parts that disturb the [Brunswick town] residents are the parties. Try not to have those, certainly not after 9 [p.m.].”

Housing owned by the College has never been given a warning since the ordinance allows the police chief to refer incidents within a particular institution to the institutional security department, such as the Office of Safety and Security. Millett argued that this provision allowed the College to unfairly avoid receiving disorderly house notices.

“They have neighbors who are citizens and taxpayers as well,” she said.

Waltz defended the provision and BPD’s relationship with Bowdoin Security at the meeting.

“That was a compromise put in 10 years ago,” said Waltz. “[Bowdoin] Security does do a good job of holding people accountable.”

He added that disorderly conduct violations at off-campus houses are not referred to Security, although they are reported to the College.

However, not all council members supported the amendment. Councilwoman Sarah Brayman called the new provision “excessive.”

“It seems a little reactionary,” she said.

In particular, Brayman took objection to how the extended reset period could put the fall semester tenants of a house at a disadvantage if the spring semester tenants of the same house had run afoul of the ordinance.

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