Madison’s Alcohol License Review Committee approved the Nuisance Party Ordinance at a meeting Wednesday, which opponents say could negatively affect landlord-tenant relations and unfairly target student-hosted parties.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, was the only ALRC member to vote against the ordinance, citing ambiguous language as his main reason for his opposition.
“I believe the current proposal before us this evening was overly broad and I can’t support it until modifications are made,” Verveer said.
Verveer and Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, agreed to hold a meeting between the Associated Students of Madison, Apartment Association and Tenant Resource Center, along with relevant city officials, before the ordinance goes to the Public Safety Review Committee.
Both tenants and landlords attended the ALRC meeting to discuss the ordinance with committee members. ASM member Andrew Mackens said the Nuisance Party Ordinance would negatively affect the landlord-tenant relationship.
He said fines given to small landlords through the ordinance could result in the passing of these fines down to tenants, which could potentially destroy already weak landlord-tenant relationships.
“These relationships, some of which are currently nonexistent, will become increasingly negative or continue to be nonexistent,” Mackens said.
Legislative Affairs Chair Hannah Somers also addressed the relationship between tenants and landlords and questioned whether tenants’ security deposits would have money deducted or removed altogether in response to hosting a “nuisance” party.
Somers said ASM recently sent a letter to ALRC outlining its concerns with the ordinance, and she said the tenant-landlord relationship is a major one.
“The biggest concern is this relationship that will be affected,” Somers said. “It’s already hard enough to have a good relationship with your landlord, and I can’t speak to many people who do. We’re worried this ordinance will only make it worse.”
Skidmore, the main sponsor of the proposal, said police officers require the discretion to address different types of parties that could be considered a nuisance.
“There seems to be a misconception that this will be applied broadly to anything that involves alcohol,” Skidmore said. “That’s not the case. This is geared toward the very large parties that have a lot of behavior issues.”
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, also expressed concern the ordinance would effectively end the Mifflin Street Block Party.
Lt. Sue Williams of the Madison Police Department disagreed and said while large, uncontrolled parties on Mifflin Street may be affected, the block party would not be wholly eradicated.
Mark Woulf, Madison’s alcohol policy coordinator, responded to concerns of ambiguous language in the ordinance and said police officers need the discretion to decide what is and is not a nuisance party.
“We have to allow the ordinance to be enforceable by the police department, and that’s why you see greater flexibility in the ordinance,” Woulf said. “Bottom line, I think this is a necessary tool, and I do have confidence that the police will only use it when it is necessary.”
The ordinance will now be taken up by the Housing Committee and Public Safety Review Committee in the coming months before it reaches the City Council for a final vote, Verveer said. He said the ordinance could be enacted as early as the end of February if it passes.