The Middlebury Selectboard approved an amendment to the town’s noise ordinance at its Jan. 24 meeting, lengthening the period of quiet hours on weekends and holidays.
Under the previous ordinance, quiet hours did not begin until 1 a.m. on weekends and holidays. The amendment pushed forward quiet hours so that they now begin at 11 p.m. Quiet hours on weeknights — 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. — were unchanged by the amendment.
The update to the noise ordinance arose from an ongoing conflict between off-campus college students and town residents, which began in the spring of 2022. In an email to The Campus, Selectboard member Andy Hooper wrote that the conflict was centered around two recently converted off-campus properties. Boston-based Middlebury parent, Richard Tinsley P’23, bought the two properties — one on North Pleasant Street and one on Washington Street Extension — in late 2021 and reconfigured them into student housing.
Town residents living near the North Pleasant Street and Washington Street Extension properties have complained that both Tinsley and the students living there have been unresponsive to their noise concerns.
“The student occupants were much more disruptive to the neighbors than the previous tenants,” Hooper explained. “And those neighbors came to the Selectboard to see if we could provide some remedy.”
Earlier this year, the Selectboard voted to change town zoning laws after a number of complaints about students living off campus, but the measure could not be passed due to a procedural issue.
In revising the noise ordinance, the college administration worked closely with the Selectboard to agree on these new quiet hours. In an email to The Campus, Dean of Students Derek Doucet wrote that “Middlebury representatives attended two of the Select Board meetings where the noise ordinance was discussed, and we shared our perspective.”
In Selectboard meetings leading up to the approval of the new noise ordinance, members discussed the administrative mechanisms for reporting complaints about off-campus student living. Doucet introduced an online reporting form earlier this fall, which allows residents to submit their issues with off-campus students directly to the college.
The college administration also ensured that the ordinance would include accommodations for programmed events that regularly extend past 11 p.m., such as concerts, Reunion, Commencement and certain Language School events.
Another notable change is that noise complaints can now be filed at any time, and a potential transgression need not occur within the boundaries of quiet hours to be considered a violation of the noise ordinance.
“No person or persons shall make or continue, or cause to be made or continued, any excessive, unnecessary, or unreasonably loud noise or disturbance which disturbs, destroys, or endangers the comfort, quiet, repose, health, peace or safety of others within the immediate vicinity of the noise or disturbance,” the ordinance reads.
The town will charge up to $800 for people found in violation of the ordinance.
Though the matter of the revised ordinance is settled for now, town residents still disagree about the college’s responsibility in monitoring the lifestyles — be they disruptive or not — of students living off-campus in town.
“There has been tension among neighbors and different opinions on the Selectboard about the role of the college in supervising students living off campus,” Hooper noted in his email. “Some residents would like the college to be more transparent about complaints received and disciplinary actions taken.”
Since the enactment of the revised ordinance in late January, the Selectboard has not received any direct noise or nuisance complaints from residents of Middlebury.