State handcuffs Williamsburg Council on noise

WILLIAMSBURG - There wasn't much talk about the city's $34.5 million 2016 budget during a public hearing at City Council's meeting Thursday afternoon.

There was a lot of talk about the city's noise ordinance.

Council wanted to comply with a request from students at The College of William and Mary and reduce the penalty for a first offense on the noise ordinance from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a civil offense.

"This shouldn't result in a criminal record," said Scott Camello, one of several students who addressed the issue.

But as City Attorney Christina Shelton laid out in a memo to Council, there's a problem with reducing it to a civil offense.

"The General Assembly authorizes local police departments to enforce criminal statutes not civil statues, with a few exceptions," Shelton told Council. "The noise ordinance is not one of those exceptions. If we reduced it to a civil penalty, we'd have no way to enforce it."

"This is one of those problems caused by the Dillon Rule," Councilwoman Judy Knudson said. "This is something we'd all like to do, but the state won't let us."

The Dillon Rule is a principle of municipal governance that states local governments have only the powers specifically granted to them by the state constitution and the state legislature.

While the students said they were disappointed with the answer, they thanked Council and the staff for the time they put in on the issue.

Camello said it's an issue student government may want address during its annual lobbying day at the next General Assembly and something individual students may want to give thought to when choosing a candidate for the General Assembly in November.

Council did pass on a 4-0 vote a proposal to allow a limited number of motel rooms in the city to be converted to apartments.

Councilman Doug Pons had asked for a special use permit to allow him to turn 60 motel rooms at his Knights Inn motel at the corner of York Street and Quarterpath Road into 40 apartments. He said he could find no other way to redevelop his property, which has had an occupancy rate of about 20 percent for the last five years.

Instead of granting that request, Council and the city administration created the Planned Development Housing District, a program to allow motels in the B-2 business zone to make the conversions on a limited basis.

The new housing district will allow up to 100 motel room conversions citywide, with no more than 50 at any one facility.

Pons recused himself from discussion and the vote on the issue.

After the meeting he said his original plan for his motel will work with what Council passed.

"I think we've ended up with a better result for everyone," he said.

Since Council had a thorough briefing on the 2016 budget at its Monday work session, members engaged in little discussion about it on Thursday. 

Only one speaker, John Whitley, spoke during the budget public hearing. He asked that the budget include the cost of speed bumps on Governor Berkeley Road.

Council will vote on the budget at its May meeting.



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