Social host is 1 step closer to approval

Noise ordinance temporarily held back

The Craig City Council discussed two new proposed ordinances at its meeting Tuesday night, but only one was informally approved to return for first reading.

Underage drinking and noise were the meeting's focus.

A proposed social host ordinance, wherein the city would make it a municipal offense for any resident to provide a place for someone younger than 21 to consume alcohol, received mixed reactions from council members but will come back for a first reading at the council's next meeting Oct. 13.

A draft revision of the city's noise ordinance, however, was effectively tabled for further review, and it is not expected to come back for first reading until a later date.

City ordinances such as a social host ordinance and noise provisions require two readings at different council meetings.

That means the soonest a social host ordinance could be approved would be the Oct. 27 council meeting.

Before the meeting Tuesday, Councilor Byron Willems, who has spearheaded the adoption of a social host ordinance among city officials, said he wasn't sure how the councilors would approach the issue.

He said he had done some vote counting among the seven council members, and he wasn't sure there was enough support.

"To me, it's a no-brainer, but that's just my opinion," Willems said.

Although there was skepticism, only Councilor Jennifer Riley and Mayor Don Jones expressed disapproval.

Councilor Gene Bilodeau said it didn't seem like there was any harm in passing the ordinance to do what it can to curb underage drinking. Councilor Ray Beck concurred.

"What is the downside with the city of Craig going forward with this ordinance?" Bilodeau said. "It seems people have said it won't be used very often, but if it's used two or three times, what's the downside of that?"

Cmdr. Jerry DeLong, with the Craig Police Department, said a social host ordinance would essentially give law enforcement a tool to go inside a home if an underage drinker was spotted outside.

"Generally speaking, we get complaints about noise or young kids congregating in front of a house," he said.

"When they see a patrol car pull up, they all go inside the house. A lot of times, they won't answer the door even if we saw them go in."

At the moment, nothing in that scenario gives law enforcement probable cause to enter the home or get a search warrant, DeLong said.

A social host ordinance would change that, City Attorney Kenny Wohl said.

If there was a social host ordinance making it illegal to provide a place for underage drinking, Wohl said law enforcement could obtain a search warrant to enter the home because there would be probable cause the homeowner was violating the law.

However, the mayor remained unconvinced.

Any ordinance that protects youth is valid, Jones said, but the city wouldn't need a social hosting ordinance if existing laws were utilized correctly.

He said law enforcement could stake out parties and arrest underage drinkers as they left, which would probably help curtail alcohol consumption.

Several issues derailed the noise ordinance discussion, most notably how to address mixed use areas, such as the homes behind commercial businesses along Victory Way.

Before bringing a draft back to the council, city staff plan to address questions such as extending commercial noise permits past 11 p.m., setting limits on the number of permits one person or business can have in a year and how a person could contest a noise permit prior to its issue.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

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