Party Hosts On Hook Under Bylaw Changes, Sandy Hill Described As Student-Party Epicenter

posted in: ASH in the News
[24-May-2012] EMC News – Booze-fuelled student antics are making Sandy Hill a nightmare neighbourhood, a city committee heard on May 17.

Almost a dozen Sandy Hill residents came out in support of changes to the way the city’s noise bylaw is enforced, but many said there needs to be even more attention to fix the “free-for-all party destination” reputation Sandy Hill is gaining.

Christopher Collmorgen, president of Action Sandy Hill, said 20 per cent of the total noise complaints in Ottawa come from Sandy Hill.

Resident May Morpaw said the widespread tolerance of open drinking in the streets of Sandy Hill is leading to increasingly frequent and intense parties, including a neighbourhood-wide St. Patrick’s Day bash that left the neighbourhood in shambles and included noisy revellers throwing glass bottles off rooftops. Carl Martin, who also lives in the neighbourhood, said even longtime Sandy Hill residents had never seen anything like it.

Another resident, Leanne Moussa, said she has called bylaw services only to be told, “What do you expect, living in Sandy Hill?”

Camille Lachausseur, a Sandy Hill mother, said her children’s health and ability to learn are being affected by the constant nighttime partying.

“I don’t want them to grow up thinking that this is normal behaviour,” she said.

Lachausseur said there is a “double standard” for young people.

“Why is there a double standard for young people … if I walked down the street like this, I would be given a ticket,” she said.

Lachausseur worried about Sandy Hill becoming “the next London or Kingston,” referring to university cities that have recently experienced alcoholic-fuelled vandalism.

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans countered that noisy student parties aren’t just a downtown problem.

“The O-Train has transitioned our neighbourhood,” she said. “It started downtown and it’s primarily downtown, but it’s moving out.”

The bylaw changes will allow enforcement officers to issue fines to tenants, not just their noisy guests. Bylaw officers will also be able to carry batons after receiving new training. There will also be a pilot project beginning this year that will see a small group of bylaw enforcement officers assigned to work until 3:30 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until September. Previously, bylaw services shifted responsibility for the issue over to the police after 2 a.m. – when many intoxicated patrons are heading home from bars.

The late-night pilot project will be reviewed to see if that strategy should continue beyond 2012.

Most of the comments the city received were in support of the changes, but some said the amendments don’t go far enough. They wanted the city to fine landlords if their tenants are noisy.

Linda Anderson, the city’s bylaw chief, said it would be unfair to fine landlords who don’t live at the property because they don’t have the legal tools to evict noisy tenants. Tenants can be evicted if they disturb others in the building, but the tenant board could give them more chances.

John Dickie, head of the Eastern Ontario Landlords Association, spoke in support of the changes, but said there wouldn’t be much point in laying bylaw charges on landlords, if the city tried to expand the rules in the future.

“Our members want these problems to be solved,” Dickie said, adding, “we don’t have a magic wand we can wave to solve this problem.”

Council will still have to vote on the noise bylaw changes.