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ALRC kicks nuisance house party ordinance to future meeting
The proposed ordinance aims to provide police with the tools to 'quickly and efficiently abate' a nuisance party.
The proposed ordinance aims to provide police with the tools to 'quickly and efficiently abate' a nuisance party.
Credit:Pamela Selman

A proposed ordinance aimed at curbing nuisance house parties around the University of Wisconsin campus and downtown Madison was once again placed on hold by a city committee Wednesday evening, despite officials' attempts to revise its language.

The Alcohol License Review Committee Wednesday unanimously referred the nuisance party ordinance to its December 21 meeting after a number of committee members said they did not understand how the new regulations would aid the Madison Police Department.

As described in the proposed ordinance (PDF), nuisance parties are unsafe gatherings, usually involving large amounts of alcohol that is illegally sold or provided to party-goers, some of whom are underage. These parties often involve numerous law violations, including excessive noise, overcrowding and excessive alcohol consumption.

City officials claim these parties create a substantial risk to the health and safety of the community and disrupt the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood.

The proposed ordinance aims to provide police with the tools to "quickly and efficiently abate" a nuisance party. And it also provides penalties for those responsible for the party.

Madison Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf says the newest version of the ordinance lays out a more concise definition of what would qualify as a nuisance party.

After meeting with the city attorney and police department, Woulf says a set of nine criteria -- including alcohol, fire code and noise violations -- were established to classify a nuisance house party. Two or more violations would constitute a nuisance party.

"I do feel this is a good place to be with the ordinance proposal -- it does get at what we're trying to get at," Woulf says. "I feel there has been enough time for all parties to review the language, and I intend to ask the lead Public Safety Review Committee to send it to council, with or without the ALRC's recommendation."

But ALRC members questioned the need to quickly forward the proposed ordinance to other committees when a main concern is to have it in place for the May 2012 Mifflin Street Block Party.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, says while the proposal was brought to the ALRC several months ago, revisions have required additional discussion and other committees should have the chance to review it before the PSRC provides a recommendation to the council.

"It's laughable for us to say this is being rushed because it was introduced months ago, but I do not see the urgency for us to act tonight if MPD is asking for additional time," Verveer says.

A number of other committee members echoed Verveer's concerns, arguing they need proof the ordinance would serve as an additional tool for the police to combat nuisance parties.

Rachel Lepak, ALRC member and UW student government representative, says students remain concerned about how the ordinance would be enforced.

"We have questions about ... how the officers would react to the ordinance and if it would really solve the problem or if it would just create more fines for students," Lepak says.

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