Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Citizens' Forum to Host a Discussion on Infill, Density and Neighborhood Character

The Citizens’ Forum will host a discussion on the subject of “WHAT MEANS ARE THERE TO MANAGE INFILL/DENSITY AND TO MAINTAIN THE CHARACTER OF OUR NEIGHBORHOODS?” on October 10th from 10 am to noon at the Fountain Community Church, 2100 Broadway. (Click on the image on left to read the flyer and to get directions to the event). This promises to be a lively discussion on topics such as infill, density, neighborhood character, zoning & code enforcement, rental property licensing and the role of Western Washington University with respect to these issues.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Students Return - It's Party Time

This is the month during which students return en masse to the various campuses in Bellingham (WWU, WCC and BTC). That means it is party time. Those who lived in dormitories last year at WWU are now first time renters of homes, possibly in your neighborhood. You may have to contend with their ignorance of nuisances codes with respect to litter, noise, parking and public urination. The latest information about reporting these violations is in the current edition of BlockWatcher, prepared by the Bellingham Police Department for BlockWatch groups throughout the city.

“People often ask if they have to give their name when they call 911. The answer is “no”……..and “yes.” For example, if you are calling to report a loud party you don’t have to give your name to the dispatcher in order for police to respond but this is what will happen: The police will go to the party complaint, ask them to be quiet and leave. You may be asking yourself “Why wasn’t the party shut down?” Well, the answer is simple. There was no victim. If you want to be anonymous then there isn’t anyone who is willing to be a victim and therefore the law can not be upheld. If you are afraid of getting into trouble with your neighbors keep this in mind. The police do not tell the party goers (or anyone else we contact) who called. The police will just say it was “someone in the area.” If they request a copy of the report however your name will be on there due to public disclosure laws. So the next time you call 911 keep this is mind: you do not have to give your name but you may find that you did not get the police response you were hoping for. If you leave your name and number and ask not to be contacted or only contacted by phone often time this will suffice.”

Here are a few more guidelines on contending with parties. The Zonemaven has formulated these after many years of personal experience with out-of-control rentals on his street, participation in Campus Community Coalition activities (to include the Let’s Talk Forums), and several years of volunteering at the Bellingham Police Department.

→ Students are advised to let the neighborhood know if they are having a party. Unfortunately, many regard this as a version of a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Their thought pattern is that you, the homeowner, have been warned of the party, so the partygoers can indulge in their behaviors. The Zonemaven tells students that he does not warn his neighbors about his parties because he limits the number of invitees and his guests keep quiet while furthermore they do not litter, they park only where it is allowed and, mercifully, use the bathroom before leaving host’s house.

→ The renters will also stop to provide you with their phone number, in the event there is a problem. This is a nice gesture but, unfortunately, given the volume of the music and conversation at most parties, a ringing phone is unlikely to be heard.

→Alternatively, some hosts will tell the neighbors to knock on the door if the phone is not answered. Or, in a fit of rage, a neighbor decides to confront the party house directly. The Zonemaven suggest that you never, ever, knock on the door of a party which is too loud or out of control. Even an armed police officer will wait for backup before confronting a group of partiers, many of whom can be drunk and aggressively so.

→Do not be afraid to recontact 911 to provide them with an update. A change in the numbers or the comportment of partygoers can change the priority with which the officers respond. The Zonemaven personally reported a party one night with about 50 “attendees”. When the numbers swelled in the next twenty minutes to over 125, he recalled 911 with an update and three patrol units arrived moments later. Note: Do not fib about the numbers to get a response. The police need accurate information.

Do not think your neighborhood is exempt from the party experience. The Zonemaven heard from a homeowner this morning of a horrific all-night party at a home just rented to nine (9) students. This is in an area of homes valued at $800,000.