Councilor Lamattina Files Nuisance Ordinance

August 7, 2012
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Public nuisance problems continue to plague the North End, especially on weekends but things appear to be getting somewhat better as Boston Police have concentrated more patrols in and near hot spots residents have identified.

In addition, District One Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina has filed a nuisance control ordinance that if enacted will help stop the problem that residents have complained about on many occasions including at the monthly public safety meetings with District A-1 Police Captain Thomas Lee and his community service staff.

The bill is currently in the Council’s Government Operation Committee.

The ordinance would amend the City of Boston Code by adding a new section and subsections specifically relating to unruly gatherings and classifying 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,” Councilor LaMattina said.

It’s no secret that public nuisance behavior has been a problem in most of the North End.

Residents have publically complained about weekend noise, disorderly people, unnecessary damage to property and using the community as a toilet or a place to vomit.

City officials and Boston Police have continuously been bombarded with requests from the community to help resolve this growing problem the residents have to deal with every weekend.

“These rowdy people are destroying things, according to residents. There is no respect for the community we live in. It’s awful.”

Residents have publically claimed most of the problem stems from customers from the Waterfront, when the businesses close and when there are events at the TD Garden.

“My car mirrors have been broken several times and my planters have been destroyed as well,” a North Street resident said.

“It’s become extremely hard to sleep on weekends,” another resident said. “There’s no reason all this very loud noise and total disrespect for the community has to happen. We want this to stop.”

“The Councilor had promised to submit an ordinance to deal with this problem and he did so last week,” Stephen Passacantilli who works for the Councilor said. “Now we need the neighborhood’s support to get this ordinance passed and signed by the Mayor and move on to other issues of importance.”

Introduction and Purpose of 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.

Conclusion

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.