You have probably wondered why the bell tower stops ringing from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., but chances are you never realized one ring during those hours could be a violation of city law.
Image from engin.umich.edu
If I had known blasting Bieber through my speakers on a Saturday night at 10:01 p.m. would lead to a deterioration of my already failing bank account, maybe I would have reconsidered signing a lease to move off campus next fall. You have probably wondered why the bell tower stops ringing from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., but chances are you never realized one ring during those hours could be a violation of city law.
According to the Ann Arbor noise control ordinance, “no person shall engage in, assist in, permit, continue or permit the continuance of [specific activities] if the activity produces clearly audible sound beyond the property line of the property on which it is conducted even if the sound level is equal to or less than the dB(A) specified in Section 9:364.”
Some of the most notable activities include the operation of power tools, any loudspeaker, or unnecessary noise. Being that the Ann Arbor community is dominated by college students and campus life, a large portion of the population finds that the ordinance’s application to the weekends, especially Saturday nights, is not only gratuitous, it’s ridiculous.
Many students that live off campus have had interactions with the city police over noise complaints, some of which did not even involve parties. Junior Tristan Been was threatened by officers for violating the noise ordinance when a group of 4 friends and him decided to play music while relaxing.
“We have had the cops called once at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, which is pretty absurd in my opinion. On a college campus parties don’t really start until 10:30 or 11 at night, and the fact that the ordinance begins so early is not very logical. The ordinance makes much more sense if it was set at that hour Monday through Thursday,” Been said.
One would think that the enforcement of the ordinance would be insignificant, but 34 of 50 people polled while walking through the Diag have experienced interaction with the police over loud noise on the weekend. In a campus, overwhelmed with party culture, a statistic like that is not surprising. However, many of these complaints did not necessarily involve parties.
According to city ward Sabra Briere, council has never considered changing the ordinance to weekdays because of public influence. “To the best of my memory, the council has not considered making any changes that would be more lenient. Instead, council members have talked about construction noise, equipment operating noise, noise produced by conflicting uses, and—always a favorite—loud party noise,” Briere said.
Briere followed a similar rhetoric when describing the influence of the public on city council. “As a general statement, when people reach out to city council seeking relief and problem solving, they are seeking relief from external events (parties, inconsiderate neighbors, etc.,” Briere said.
This poses the question of whether or not council is truly representing the ideas of the general population, which is significantly made up of college students.
Surprisingly, Briere said that there have been few complaints made my student organizations and none coming from school officials. “There have been some complaints from student organizations (such as fraternities) but—still as a general statement—only because their neighbors object to loud parties and loud noises after 10 p.m. People who want to celebrate noisily are in conflict with those who wish to not celebrate, or to celebrate quietly, late at night and very early in the morning,” Briere said.
Perhaps, it’s because either not enough students know about the ordinance, they don’t care, or the differing rules for city, county, and campus police. As many know, the overlapping jurisdictions can create confusion in regards to what is legal and not.
The bigger problem is that the minority in Ann Arbor, people who have advocated for the noise ordinance, are able to dominate the conversation. Yes, the ordinance makes sense within the boundaries of weekdays. I’m sure, even though it may be difficult to accept, the majority of college students would agree that this is a good idea.
However, the ordinance’s application to the weekends, specifically Saturday night, is ridiculous. Not many people in our generation would agree that 10 p.m. is even considered late. The fact that someone could potentially be fined for choosing to play music loudly on a weekend is excessive.
To many, it’s easy to point out a problem without a proposed solution. In this context, the solution is obvious: 1) Student organizations become more involved with the city council process and offer a resolution. 2) The time frame on the ordinance for the weekend should be made more reasonable.
Young people should become more involved with the policy process in order to avoid being subjected to the policies solely imposed by older generations. Becoming more aware can fix, even a minute issue, such as the ridiculous noise ordinance.