ANTIGONISH — The Town of Antigonish has taken measures to address the negative impacts of large social gatherings in the community.
At a special meeting on Oct. 4, council approved the adoption of a nuisance party bylaw.
In conversation with The Journal on the day after the council vote, Mayor Laurie Boucher explained that the issue was brought to the town’s police and licensing committee in early September, which came on the heels of a busy Labour Day weekend for the Antigonish RCMP related to noisy party complaints.
“It helps address ongoing concerns in dealing with large gatherings,” she said.
In formulating the wording and provisions of its bylaw, Antigonish officials consulted their colleagues in the Town of Wolfville, which – as home to Acadia University – deals with many of the same issues associated with being a university community.
“We talked about a lot of things – what did and didn’t work for them,” Boucher said of the exchanges with Wolfville officials, where their bylaw was enacted one year ago.
She explained that the nuisance party bylaw encompasses more offences than those covered by the town’s noise bylaw, including dealing with areas such as destruction of property.
“It goes a little bit beyond [our noise bylaw],” Boucher noted.
In the Town of Antigonish bylaw, a nuisance party is defined as a “gathering on property which, by reason of the conduct or any one or more of the person(s) in attendance, is characterized by any one or more of the following elements: public intoxication; the unlawful sale, furnishing, or distribution of alcoholic beverages or other controlled substances; the unauthorized deposit of litter on public or private property; damage to public or private property; the obstruction of vehicular or pedestrian traffic or interference with the ability to provide emergency services; sound that is unusual or excessive, or that is likely to be unwanted by or disturbing to persons, as described in the Town of Antigonish noise control bylaw; unauthorized open burning as described in the outdoor fire bylaw; public disturbance, including confrontations or violence; outdoor public urination or defecation; or use of or entry upon a roof not intended for such occupancy.”
For those who are found to have violated any of those provisions, the fines are not less than $400 for a first offense, not less than $600.00 for a second offense and no less than $900 for a third and any subsequent offences.
Town bylaw enforcement officers and Antigonish RCMP members have the ability to issue the summary offense tickets, which can take place while the party is happening and in the days following the event.
Potential offenders could include party-goers, party hosts and even – in some cases – landlords, depending on the circumstances. For example, a landlord may not be taking any measures to mitigate such events from occurring on their property.
“It is another tool,” Boucher offered of ways in which to deal with the issue, while noting that – in recent years – more landlords have been including provisions in their rental agreements.
When it comes to enforcement, she notes that each situation is not the same.
“They can grow organically,” Boucher offered of circumstances when people show up uninvited and the party gets out of hand.
She explained that the goal for the bylaw is to “mitigate any harm to anybody.”
Boucher added, “We are not doing anything to stifle anything,” when it comes to having parties and “people having fun.”
Noting that it varies from year-to-year, she offered that it is difficult to determine if there are more large scale gatherings, particularly coming on the heels of a couple of years that were “quite quiet” during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“I am not sure if it is just people are no longer used to it, or things are getting worse,” Boucher said.
She credited everyone involved with taking measures to deal with these issues, including StFX’s “significant effort” in its ongoing work to create a “strong culture of community” – both on and off the Antigonish campus.
Copies of Antigonish’s nuisance party bylaw can be picked up at the front counter of Town Hall at 274 Main St., or viewed online at townofantigonish.ca.