Three’s company, five’s a party: Bristol cracks down on “gatherings” in town

Kayla Ebner | Editor-in-Chief

If you live in Bristol and you’re planning on having a party with five or more people in your house or apartment, you might want to think again. 

Bristol passed a new town ordinance that was adopted on Aug. 1, noting that a “gathering” of more than five people that results in a disturbance will be cited with a warning. A second offense may result in a fine of $500 and up to 50 hours of community service for each and every person attending the five-or-more person party, as well as the property owner.

This ordinance is not specific only to RWU students, but applies to all Bristol residents.

 RWU senior Sarah Durning is a Bristol town resident, and thinks the new ordinance is unreasonable.

 “I don’t think it’s safe to call five people a ‘party,’” said Durning. “I think that it’s just a little out of hand to make rules that strict in a college town.”

Specifically, the ordinance states “It shall be a public nuisance to conduct a gathering of five or more persons on any private property in a manner which constitutes a substantial disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property in a significant segment of a neighborhood, as a result of conduct constituting a violation of law.”

 Examples of disturbances were given, including excessive noise or traffic, illegal parking, public drunkenness, public urination, fights, disturbances of the peace and more.

 Over the summer, a “Good Neighbor Tour” was conducted at addresses that have a history of incidents. Two Bristol Police Sergeants, Steve Melaragno, Director of the Department of Public Safety, Scott Yonan, Assistant to Vice President of Student Life & Director of Special Projects, and Heidi Hartzell, Student Life Compliance Manager and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, explained to the students that they need to be respectful of their neighbors and talked to them about the new Unruly House Ordinance, as well as the Good Neighbor Policy and the RI Social Host Law.

In a town council meeting on July 11, Town Solicitor Michael A. Ursillo noted that there are also “community service requirements placed upon those found guilty of violating the ordinance.”

He added that RWU will be officially notified if the “perpetrators” turn out to be university students. The RWU Student Code of Conduct applies to both on- and off-campus students, and may be addressed depending on the situation.

 According to Diana Proto, Director of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution, “If incidents are documented and forwarded to the University, we will address the behavior according to our conduct review process, as outlined in the Student Handbook.” This policy was in place before the new ordinance was passed.

 According to Bristol Police Captain Brian Burke, the Bristol Police Department has not issued any summonses directly related to this new ordinance.

 Melaragno mentioned that if students living off campus in Bristol felt they were being “singled out” by anyone, they can call Yonan and share their concerns.

 Senior RWU student, Zach Gagnon, lives in downtown Bristol and believes it’s an “unfortunate” rule to have.

 “I understand that they are trying to prevent outrageous college parties, but if more than five people is considered a party than that is a very small number because some off campus houses have more than five people living at them,” said Gagnon.

 He also pointed out that it is a hefty fine for a college student.

 “It is preventing people from having friends over because they could be at risk of getting a $500 fine, which most college students cannot afford,” said Gagnon.