It wasn’t the threat of “double-secret probation” that brought nearly a dozen members of one campus fraternity before Elon’s town council on Tuesday.
Instead, this contingent from Beta Theta Pi had a few nits to pick with the town’s noise ordinance, which they believe has shortcomings that have allowed it to be weaponized by rival organizations.
Alex Cortese, a member of Elon’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi, assured the council that the town’s existing noise regulations fly in the face of the mutually beneficial relationship the town has otherwise cultivated with its eponymous university.
“It would be illogical to say the town of Elon’s growth is not tied to the university,” Cortese went on to declare during a designated public comment period at the start of the council’s most recent meeting. “Yet despite this symbiotic relationship…there’s a noticeable disconnect between the town’s noise ordinance and student life.”
Cortese insisted that the vagaries of the town’s current noise ordinance have enabled certain campus organizations to make frivolous noise complaints as a means to harass and harry each other. This ruthless misuse of the rules, so reminiscent of the skullduggery in the film Animal House, has apparently had some less than comedic implications, according to the fraternity’s spokesman. Cortese noted that the town’s ordinance presently designates noise violations as Class III misdemeanors – a category that also includes crimes like marijuana possession, and which he deemed overly harsh for a mere nuisance complaint.
Cortese encouraged the town’s leaders to consider replacing these criminal sanctions with civil penalties, which he insisted have proven their worth in other communities. He also suggested that the council implement some measurable standards for excessive noise to ensure that the noise ordinance isn’t arbitrarily applied by the town’s municipal police force.
Cortese’s complaints with the noise ordinance seemed to strike a definite chord with council member Stephanie Bourland.
“I would like to look at that some more,” she told her colleagues at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings, “because I don’t think that [noise violations] should fall under the same guidelines as marijuana possession.”
In response to Bourland’s suggestion, Richard Roedner, Elon’s town manager, pointed out that Class III is the lowest level of misdemeanor under state law. Roedner conceded, however, that the town could phase out its criminal penalties in favor of fines or some other, less onerous, measure.
Meanwhile, mayor Emily Sharpe presented some stats from the town’s police department that demonstrated, to her satisfaction, that officers haven’t been heavy handed in their resolution of noise complaints.
“When you only had 10.2 percent [of calls] resulting in citations last year,” she said, “the data does not speak to targeted or overzealous policing.”