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UND student senator says Grand Forks' noise ordinance may be unconstitutional

GRAND FORKS -- Grand Forks' noise ordinance could well be unconstitutional, UND Student Senator Michael Rocks-McQueen told the City Council on Sunday.

During a joint meeting of both bodies, he compared the wording in the city's law to that of a law in Virginia Beach, Va., that was struck down by the Appeals Court there as unconstitutional back in April.

The noise ordinance in Virginia Beach forbade "unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise" that would bother "persons of reasonable sensitivity."

The noise ordinance in Grand Forks, adopted two years ago, forbade "unreasonable noise" that was "likely to" annoy a "reasonable person."

Rocks-McQueen said the law is too vague and could mean anything. He said the council should make decibel levels the criteria.

Council member Doug Christensen, an attorney, said the reasonable standard is used frequently in law because lawmakers can't possibly define everything in every situation. That's why there are judges, he said.

Students complained the law is applied arbitrarily, but it appears their grievance is with campus police, not city police, which furnished statistics showing it doesn't respond to noise complaints in university areas any more than in the rest of the city.

City leaders said students should talk to university police first before trying to get the law changed.