Responding to constituent concerns regarding excessively loud parties in the North End and throughout Boston, District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina (North End / Waterfront, Charlestown, East Boston) has filed “An Ordinance Regarding Nuisance Control.” (View the full ordinance in pdf, also pasted below.)
The “noise ordinance” targets unruly gatherings within private properties and classifies them as public nuisances. The proposed regulation is not intended to interfere with typical social parties. An offense is defined as excessive noise and/or behavior that causes a “substantial disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private and public property in a neighborhood.” The ordinance does not cover street noise which is covered by other noise regulations.
Boston Police and local officials will be empowered to issue a warning notice for the first incident. A second incident within a year would be subject to a $100 civil fine to the persons involved and the property owner. Subsequent incidents within a year would see a $300 fine.
If passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, the ordinance would apply citywide. It has the preliminary support of the Boston Police Department. Senior aide to Councilor LaMattina, Stephen Passacantilli, said that he worked on this ordinance with several residents and business owners in the community.
The following detailed explanation of the Noise Control Ordinance and its relation to the existing Problem Properties Ordinance is courtesy of the City Council Research Office.
Introduction and Purpose of Nuisance Control Ordinance
This proposed ordinance would amend the City of Boston Code by adding a new section and subsections specifically relating to unruly gatherings and classifying such unruly gatherings as public nuisances. The purpose of the proposal is to address the harm and disturbances caused by unruly gatherings in the city’s neighborhoods.
The ordinance would impose liability on property owners in addition to other responsible persons for nuisances and harm caused by unruly gatherings. By definition, the ordinance is narrowly tailored to apply to unruly gatherings on private property. The ordinance defines such gatherings as a public nuisance if such gatherings create a “substantial disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private and public property in a neighborhood”. Behavior constituting a public nuisance for purposes of this ordinance includes excessive noise, fights, and disturbances of the peace. The intent of the proposal is not to prevent individuals from having social gatherings, but to focus on unruly gatherings that create loud disturbances that substantially interfere with the quiet enjoyment rights of other residents. The proposal also provides a mechanism for penalizing the property owner for a subsequent offense.
The ordinance requires notice to property owners, persons cited, and educational institutions if local authorities responding to a gathering determine that it meets the criteria of a public nuisance as defined in the ordinance. Under the proposal, penalties may be assessed to the persons involved for a first violation; and, for the second and subsequent violations, the persons involved as well as the property owners will also be fined if the second violation occurred within year and the property owner received sufficient notice of the first violation. The fine imposed for the first violation shall be $100.00 (one-hundred dollars) and for the second and subsequent violations, the penalty shall be $300.00 (three-hundred dollars).
Relation to Problem Properties Ordinances
The City of Boston has a public nuisance ordinance in relation to problem properties. The Code of Ordinances for the City of Boston, Chapter 16-55, relates to public nuisance properties. The purpose of the public nuisance properties ordinance is to authorize the City to police properties that have become a public nuisance by exhibiting a notorious atmosphere of criminal behavior and other disturbing activity so elevated as to endanger the common good and general welfare of a specific neighborhood. Public nuisance is defined as “an unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public, such as a condition dangerous to health, offensive to community moral standards, or that otherwise threatens the general welfare of a neighborhood or the City in general through documented pervasive criminal activity, code violations, or other causes precipitating the deployment of any City resource.”
This proposal differs from the ordinances relating to problem properties because it is designed to address a specific issue concerning unruly gatherings that create disturbances in the neighborhoods constituting a public nuisance as opposed to pervasive criminal activity.
This ordinance specifically relates to unruly gatherings and defines when such gatherings constitute a public nuisance. The ordinance also requires notice to property owners and educational institutions in addition to persons participating or cited under its provisions. The ordinance also authorizes holding the property owner civilly accountable through the imposition of a fine after notification of a previous violation.