During recent meetings of the Noise Control Board (NCB), Board members discussed several issues which they believe may impact the effectiveness and efficiency of Board hearings. They wish to discuss these with the City Council.
The NCB conducts administrative hearings as authorized by the City Code, Chapter 138, Noise. The Chairman of the NCB, Alan Stillwell, met with the Council Tuesday, September 22, 2015 during the Council’s review of Boards and Committees. Mr. Stillwell reviewed the function of the NCB and the hearing protocol they follow.
Mr. Stillwell advised the Council that the NCB would be following up with some recommendations for Council consideration. At subsequent NCB meetings, the following issues were discussed and detennined that they would be presented to the Council for consideration.
1. Discus the possibility and feasibility of raising fines.
Currently the state imposed limit to municipal Infraction fines is $1,000. The City noise code violation fine structure is $500 for first offense, and $1 ,000 for repeat violations within any 6 month period. The NCB is authorized to reduce the fine for a first offense, using the criteria the Council has established in Chapter 138. A person found to responsible for a violation by the NCB may appeal the municipal infraction to the District Court. Judges often reduce municipal infraction fines.
2. Request that the City Attorney determine whether social media advertising by a third party may be used as a valid defense; and, whether criminal, or other, charges may be brought for use of social media to generate a large uncontrolled party. Similar to charges of “inciting a riot”, could a charge of “tweeting a mob” be brought?
A trend has been noted by the NCB, of persons accused of a noise code violation resulting from a large party claiming that their party was posted on social media by an unauthorized person or attendee at their party. The NCB has continually admonished the accused that they are still responsible and should be the first one to call police for assistance in quieting the party and dispersing uninvited guests.
3. Should the NCB rules and procedures recess an administrative hearing, and dismiss the case immediately, when there are not two credible witnesses to testify?
The NCB has experienced scheduled hearings where only one actual witness to the event under consideration is in attendance. Other witnesses to other events at the same location may come to testify, but the NCB must focus on the specific incident noted in the complaint, not any other undocumented events. In these situations the NCB has continued to hear testimony, but transitions to a mediation process rather than a hearing to determine responsibility for a violation.
4. Chapter 138-6, E, should be revised and clarified, to include criteria for referral of a property owner to the County Nuisance Abatement Board.
The process described in this section has not been implemented in the past 20 years and the BOHH was replaced by the APC for these kinds of hearings. The process, described in the Code, would require the combination of three actual violations verified and determined by the NCB or District Court trial, not merely complaints received. It is unlikely to achieve three confirmed violations within a twelve month period due to common use of the appeals process. Further, revocation of the City Residential Occupancy Pennit may not achieve the immediate results expected by the complainants. It would not, for example, result in immediate eviction of tenants. The NCB discussed the possibility of using the County Nuisance Control Board process and establishing more achievable criteria, such as five violations in five consecutive years for a specific property.
5. Initiate a public awareness campaign to promote the responsibility of party sponsors to call police when their party is crashed by uninvited guests, and to avoid uninvited guests as the result of social media.
Efforts to promote this information will include use of City sponsored public information, including annual “Knock and Talk” visits to likely party houses, property owner assistance, and any other means of distribution available. A post spring break 2016 campaign is anticipated.