The discussion of the recent passage of changes to the Fredericksburg nuisance ordinance on Dec. 13 has taken an ugly turn, a turn that does not reflect well on the University of Mary Washington student body.
According to the Free Lance-Star, “the action stems from years of issues neighbors of College Heights have dealt with, primarily from occupants of rental properties.”
The improvements to the city code were suggested by City Attorney Kathleen Dooley’s office in a memo, the Free Lance-Star said.
The changes were accepted by the council.
The discussion in the comments section of the Free Lance-Star’s website, fredericksburg.com, was unnecessarily accusatory of the city and College Heights residents.
Students commented that if residents don’t want to hear college parties they should “just have lived somewhere else.”
According to coverage of the city council meeting at which the ordinance was discussed, “failure to comply with the notice of violation would trigger a civil penalty of $50. Each day after notice is given constitutes a separate offense, and the penalty would be another $50 per day, every day that the nuisance condition continues, up to $3,000.” This seems too harsh for the crime at hand. Fairfax Va., just an hour away has a $1,000 cap on their noise ordinance fine.
While we agree that the increase in fines seems unfair, we understand why the College Heights community demanded a change. We also agree that the problem is not entirely a UMW issue; there is no one place to place the blame. Obviously the university cannot police students that live off-campus; the city taking action is the only viable solution.
Even so, the university is taking strides to meet the College Heights community half-way. According to Free Lance-Star coverage leading up to the ordinance vote, UMW has a new policy that after a student is arrested two times, he or she is sent to the UMW Judicial Review Board.
And while it is true that the University creates significant job opportunities and brings clientele to the community as many students claim, this is no reason for these students to feel more entitled than locals.
Fostering a relationship with the community is a better use of our time than breaking the bridges already formed. This doesn’t necessarily involve bringing together a group of students interested in speaking to College Heights residents about improving town and gown relations (though that isn’t a bad idea). Being less offensive online is the first step.
It doesn’t cost anything to be a good neighbor.