Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Noise bylaw challenged as unconstitutional


Amherst resident David Abrami has denounced an unlawful noise bylaw in effect since 1987 as unconstitutional. The bylaw was recently upheld in court, and Abrami is fighting against it for previous charges against him.

According to the Town of Amherst Litigation Status/Billing Report from 2009, Abrami filed a complaint in Hampshire Superior Court in October 2009 claiming his arrest in 2006 and subsequent warning in 2009 was a civil rights infraction, and that the noise bylaw is unconstitutional. He also established a website intended to raise awareness about the noise bylaw.

Public documents available on the official town of Amherst website recording a Select Board meeting last Feb. 22 indicate there was opportunity for the public to express opinions about a potential bylaw change, which would increase the first-time fine for noise bylaw violations from $100 to $300. At the meeting, John Coull, a founding member of the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking, expressed that he feels the change would facilitate a more positive environment for UMass and the community. Abrami presented his perspective that the bylaw has good intentions, but targets students.

The bylaw allows for punishment of up to a $300 fine, court summons, and arrest. The bylaw also constitutes what noise is considered to be punishable, which includes loud music and television, shouting and annoying use of electronic devices.

According to the Amherst arrest log, there was one arrest last month for unlawful noise violation. Last fall, from Sept. 2 to Nov. 2, there were 49 arrests associated with unlawful noise.

Stephanie O’Keeffe, chair of the Amherst Select Board, said the bylaw was modified May 17, 2010 in order to update the language of the law and in the hopes of decreasing destructive behavior. She said the Campus and Community Coalition brought three changes to Town Meeting to increase penalty fees for noise, keg and open container violations to $300 for first and subsequent offenses. O’Keeffe said the changes were to “make it more clear, consistent and to update.”

O’Keeffe emphasized what she thought was the importance of updating the fines, which were nearly 20 years old. She said the value of the fines needed to be updated to match current economic realities.

She added that the Select Board will be receiving a report by the end of March on the effect of the changes to the bylaw.

According to Captain Chris Pronovost of the Amherst Police Department, there have been about 200 to 300 incidents a year related to unlawful noise.

Pronovost spoke about discretion when figuring out when to arrest and when to issue a citation.

“If it’s a party that is out of control where it takes a long time for people to clear out, arrest is probably going to be in order,” he said.

Pronovost explained this year has been a particularly violent year in terms of fights at parties and accidents involved with drinking. He believes the bylaw is necessary for residents of Amherst,

“When there’s excessive noise, it affects [residents’] quality of life,” he said. Further commenting on what he thinks of the necessity of the bylaw, Pronovost said, “Most communities have one,” he said. “Here, we have a large concentration of young people who tend to want to party around residential neighborhoods.”

One student who felt particularly passionate about the noise bylaw was Eduan Pickholz, a psychology student living off-campus. He said the bylaw has affected him and his roommates multiple times this year and he feels strongly about the topic.

Mike Palsski, a sophomore communications major, is planning to live off-campus next year, and was aware of the noise bylaw. He agreed with the sentiment that it is unconstitutional.

“If I pay for my property, I have the right to do what I want to a certain extent,” he said. He also spoke about a friend who was affected by the bylaw; in addition to being fined. According to Palsski, that friend also had to meet with the Dean of Students’ office. Palsski believes the school should not be involved with something that occurs off-campus.

Noel Ravitz, a junior communications major living in the Townehouses apartment complex said he’s never received a noise complaint and noted it’s easier to get one in certain places, especially places with dense family populations. Ravitz believes a warning issued to the offender is fair, but thinks an arrest is harsh. Ravitz said any noise violation should not go on one’s record and should not affect one’s academic career.

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    JimFeb 18, 2011 at 9:29 am

    It’s called being considerate toward other people, I partied a lot on and off campus, and managed to never get a noise violation, whether you have a family living next door, or just a group of fellow students who wanted to call it an early night, it wouldn’t have to be a law if people showed consideration for their fellow man, and cared about people other than themselves.

  • J

    Jack SullivanFeb 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Why do the rights of the people engaged in loud activity override the rights of other affected nearby residents? I can say first hand that weekend parties that are as much as 500 feet away from my house have awoken my kids as late as 1, more than once. Open windows and loud talking/screaming outdoors are part of the problem. Do I not have any rights in the matter? Whether the fines are appropriate or should be increased, is not the heart of the matter. The law has a valid purpose.

  • D

    DanFeb 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    We are nine month residents of this area we should respect the people who live here yearly. Maybe if there were not websites such as the Hobart Hoedown, and when you type Umass into Youtube and see videos of parties in apartment comples such as Puffton Townhouses or Hobart Lane maybe Amherst and Hadley would not make laws such as the noise violations. Also if you read the lease you have to sign for most off campus apartments you would see that your landlord can kick you out. Just be lucky you got off with just a noise violation. I have been through the legal system with much worse. Get over yourself you rent the property you are a guest of your landlord. There is these thing called the California noise emissions on anything that has a engine is it unconstitutional for me to dry my car or mow my lawn if it is to loud.

  • J

    Justin ThompsonFeb 17, 2011 at 9:40 am

    * In protest of raising the fines last fall. I’d argue they are less Constitutional given that they are clearly designed to target, and apply an undue burden to students.

  • J

    Justin ThompsonFeb 17, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Hell yes! Take down the Communist Amherst Government!
    We should all crack a beer on the Amherst Town Hall steps in protest.