My name is Fran O’Brien and I am a South Kingstown resident and taxpayer. Other than my time in military service, I have lived in South County my entire life. I am writing with regard to your recently passed ordinance on “noise and unruly behavior.”
My kids are grown now, but when they were 4 and 2, we lived in the Point Judith section of Narragansett. We had a nice home with a wonderful view of the ocean and close proximity to my kids’ grandparents. Unfortunately, we also had neighbors who rented their homes to college students and weekly summer rentals. After three years living there, due to the (sometimes) outrageous noise and behavior, my wife and I decided to sell the house and move to a different neighborhood, which we subsequently did. I am very familiar with the problem that your ordinance is trying to solve.
That being said, I have questions and strong concerns about this ordinance as written. I don’t believe it was well thought out and it is replete with ambiguities and potential for abuse.
The ordinance seems to pertain to groups of “five or more” people. If the couple next door to me has another couple over for dinner and are outrageously “loud and unruly,” does this ordinance not pertain to them? And, if I think they are being loud and unruly, by what standard did I make that judgment? Imagine the confusion that would ensue if we did away with speed limit signs. Would anyone be OK with being stopped by a police officer who said, “No, in my opinion, you were going too fast.” By what standard?
My neighbors have told me that they were sitting around a fire pit in their back yard with their five kids and the kids’ paternal grandparents. It was 9:30 on a summer Saturday night (I realize the ordinance as written wouldn’t apply before 10 p.m.) A different neighbor called the SK police because, apparently, he thought the neighbors at the fire pit with their kids and grandparents were being “loud and unruly.” As I was told, the police officer arrived and, assessing the situation, said, “I’m not sure why we were called; you’re not doing anything wrong.” I shudder to think how often our policemen and women could be called out on a nuisance complaint.
Our business community often relies on summer trade to make it through our long winters. To give a neighbor the power to arbitrarily impede a business’s success or viability is, in my opinion, short sighted and a threat to our overall economy and tax base. I also think that it will expose the town to legal action, primarily from businesses, but, possibly from private citizens as well. (The Town of East Greenwich is presently being sued in Federal Court by Blu on the Water restaurant over the town’s noise ordinance.)
Again, I am aware of the problem that we need to solve and, from my own personal experience in Point Judith, I’m sympathetic to neighbors being subjected to “noise and unruly” behavior. However, I don’t think this ordinance will do what it was intended to do. Given the ambiguities and the lack of an objective standard by which noise and unruly behavior can be judged, I would ask the council to hold this ordinance in abeyance, reopen it to discussion and, hopefully, together we can find the solution to the problem that this ordinance fails to do.