SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The South Kingstown Town Council on Monday passed an ordinance designed to crack down on “loud and unruly” gatherings in residential areas, giving homeowners or landlords a warning followed by fines for violators.
The ordinance was drafted in response to resident complaints about neighboring homes that have drawn loud parties at all hours of the night.
“We certainly don’t have the problem that other towns have, but we do have it in pockets and it needs to be addressed,” Council member Joe Viele said. “Listen, I’ve lived next door to these renters and it’s not a pleasant thing. We also need to protect the rights of abutters.”
Council members said they favored introducing a time window when the ordinance would be effective, and settled on 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., introducing it in an amendment.
They also introduced an initial fine of $250 for a second violation, after a warning for the first offense.
“We have to give folks a little bit of time for them to correct the action, to make sure it doesn’t continue,” Council member Bryant Da Cruz said.
Any property owner who subsequently violates the ordinance after getting a $250 fine would be fined $500 for each succeeding violation.
But Da Cruz was the only member to vote against the ordinance, and only because, he said, he couldn’t agree to holding landlords or homeowners to a three-year period where they could be subject to fines after their first warning.
Council members spent much time listening to several public speakers and trying to balance their complaints of rowdy parties with concerns from others that the law would affect infrequent family gatherings or large public events put on by businesses.
“My biggest concern is businesses in a residential neighborhood that use outdoor patios for events,” Council member Deborah Kelso said. “I don’t want to see this ordinance apply to that kind of event.”
That concern resulted in the council limiting the ordinance to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. through an amendment.
Under the measure, a public nuisance means a gathering of five or more persons on any private property where conduct occurs that “causes a substantial disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property in a significant segment of a neighborhood as a result of conduct constituting a violation of law.”
It also describes unlawful conduct as “excessive noise or traffic, obstruction of public streets by crowds or vehicles, illegal parking, public drunkenness, public urination, the service of alcohol to minors, illegal drug use, fights, disturbance of the peace and littering.”
The ordinance also will apply to others who manage property on which a public nuisance occurs and “any person who organizes, hosts, sponsors, permits, or suffers the occurrence of an event constituting a public nuisance.”
Tenants also will be on a list of those held accountable when a violation occurs, regardless of whether they have a short-term summer or longer-term winter rental. There are some exceptions, such as when any resident of property who was unaware of the public nuisance and was not in attendance on the premises. The measure also won’t hold liable any owner, resident, sponsor, or organizer when a problem is caused by trespassers.
Violators can contest the citation and fines in writing to the town manager.
The ordinance took effect on passage, and the town aims to use it in concert with a municipal court it hopes to establish this year for those who violate town laws. The municipal court must receive approval from the General Assembly.