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Board OK’s Middlebury nuisance law

MIDDLEBURY — After a public hearing at which no residents spoke, the Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday evening adopted a “public nuisances” ordinance that will require landlords to police noisy, disruptive tenants.
In recent months, some tenants, many of them Middlebury College students, have drawn complaints, particularly in the Weybridge and Shannon street neighborhoods near the college campus.
The new law was drafted by the town’s public safety committee and then amended by the town attorney before adoption on Tuesday. The law is similar to one considered in 2003, but tabled. 
Police Chief Tom Hanley, also a member of the public safety committee, recommended adoption of the ordinance on Tuesday. Earlier, he called some apartment buildings “consistent noise generators” and said the town’s noise ordinance is event-specific and therefore cannot address a pattern of disruptions at one location.
In the ordinance, landlords are given time in which to address persistent complaints. Failure to do so can lead to fines ranging from $250 to $1,000.
The most uncooperative landlords can be subject to liens on their property, charges for police response to complaints at the apartment buildings, and ultimately what Hanley has called the “nuclear option” — evicting the tenants and closing the offending house for up to a year. Hanley has said he does not expect the town to have to use that nuclear option.
Most Middlebury College students live on campus, but about 100 of the college’s 2,450 students live off campus, either by being selected through a lottery or receiving special permission.
College officials told the Independent that behavior issues can result in the loss of a housing rebate, requirement to return to campus, and/or disciplinary action from the college.
In other action on Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard:
• Awarded an $11,650 contract to Otter Creek Engineering to engineer the demolition of the existing municipal building. That will take place after completion of the new town offices, which is due next spring.
• Approved a net of $11,693 of change orders for the construction of the new town office building; some changes saved money.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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