Narragansett landlord group gives a voice to student tenants
By Donita Taylor, Journal Staff Writer at the Providence Journal
~ September 20, 2020 ~
NARRAGANSETT — Saying “URI students represent an enormous amount of talent which has never been tapped by the town,” the landlords who are part of Narragansett 2100 have created a forum for URI student tenants to sit down with URI and town officials and other representatives to help solve the problem of nuisance neighbors.
In 2005, the town passed an ordinance that allows the police to post an orange sticker on a house they have visited twice about nuisance violations. If police are called again to a house with an orange sticker, they can impose a $500 fine.
The orange sticker ordinance was tied up in court until 2011. Meanwhile, families living near a party house suffered assaults on their quality of life by drunken college students parking on their lawns, urinating or vomiting in their landscaping, yelling obscenities, playing loud music after midnight and refusing to clean up party debris such as cans, bottles and plastic cups strewn across yards.
Narragansett 2100, so named because the town had about 2,100 properties registered as being available to rent in 2014, was founded that year by Ray Kagels, who has since died. “He wanted to do the right thing for the town,” said Joe Lembo, communications director and one of the nonprofit group’s nearly 300 members.
George Nonis, president of the organization, said the thousands of URI students who live in Narragansett “have never been given a voice in the community before.” Many different organizations have seen the need for such an advisory council, Lembo said, and Nonis persisted and got it launched.
“We’re striving to have the first meeting by November,” Lembo said.
With a mission of working together to improve the community and quality of life in Narragansett by incorporating URI students into its fabric, the advisory panel will consist of student representatives from fraternities and sororities, students who are renters in the Eastward Look, Bonnet Shores, Narragansett Pier and Scarborough Hills neighborhoods, someone from the Narragansett Police Department, from URI Student Affairs, the URI Student Senate’s external affairs chairperson, a Narragansett property manager, a landlord who lives in Narragansett, and two residents who are not landlords.
The university released a statement saying: “We are pleased that Narragansett 2100 has developed a comprehensive strategy for helping our students understand the importance of being good neighbors and for helping residents understand the value our students bring to the community.”
Joe Berardi, URI’s assistant director for community standards in the Dean of Students Office, said in the statement that Narragansett 2100 has been working with his office to address some disruptive student behaviors.
“Much of this has to do with keeping the lines of communication open between students and the town,” Berardi said, as well as helping “convey the message that students will be held accountable when they violate local and university regulations. The group is also working to establish best practices for landlords so that they provide good experiences for our students and help us reinforce what it means to be good neighbors.”
URI also released statistics from the Narragansett Police Department, saying that in the last four years, nuisance complaints and arrests have dropped. The academic year ending in May 2017 had 686 total cases, which fell to 642 in May 2018 and 496 in May 2019. This May, the total was 455, or a 34% decline since 2017. Cases not involving URI students and complaints that were unfounded are included in these numbers.
Of the 184 off-campus cases referred to the URI student-conduct process in the 2019-2020 academic year, 154 were by Narragansett police. The most common violations with off-campus students are: noise, alcohol-policy violations, disorderly conduct and littering.
Some townspeople complain that the university does nothing. Spokesmen from URI and Narragansett 2100 both said that privacy has to be maintained in student disciplinary actions.
Sanctions include formal warnings, requiring students to comply with court sanctions, complete educational assignments, undergo alcohol and other drug assessment and intervention, disciplinary probation and suspension from the university.