Letter to the editor: College fighting noise ordinance

The Town of Middlebury has rolled back the onset of “quiet hours” from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. The selectboard unanimously passed that motion on Jan. 3, with input from Chief Tom Hanley and support from townspeople. 

Changing the noise ordinance has pitted neighborhood volunteers against Middlebury College’s well-paid attorneys and administrators. It’s the kind of asymmetrical power dynamic contested by the MeToo movement. The quiet hours proposal first came to the selectboard on Dec. 13. Attorney Sue Ritter assaulted the proposal, claiming it would hurt the College. Selectman Dan Brown argued that it wasn’t necessary to make town-wide changes when “only two properties” were a problem. He referred to student housing owned by Richard Tinsley, a Boston-area investor. Tinsley has particular disregard for local regulations, but in fact noise nuisances from student housing are all over town.

The Dec. 13 discussion was deferred to the Jan. 3 selectboard meeting. That date proved consequential — the college’s six-figure mercenaries don’t work on college holidays. Neighborhood volunteers were there, and the motion passed. However, the motion is subject to a final public hearing on Jan. 24th. The College will be there in full force, bent on repealing the wishes of the townspeople. 

A similar scenario unfolded last Aug. 23: the College successfully repealed a zoning change that reduced student housing in high-density residential neighborhoods. Ironically, attorney Ritter and selectman Brown argued that zoning was a “blunt instrument” for controlling off-campus housing; they endorsed the enforcement of noise ordinances. Five months later, they don’t like noise ordinances either. 

Come to the Jan. 24th meeting, don’t let the selectboard acquiesce to the College’s desires like they did on Aug. 23. With an endowment of $1.5 billion, the College can build new housing on campus for their students, which will open up affordable housing for working people in town.

John McPartland


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