Despite new Hamilton bylaw, unsanctioned McMaster University parties wreaked havoc on Westdale residents

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Published October 3, 2022 at 1:47 pm

Despite new Hamilton bylaw, unsanctioned McMaster University parties wreaked havoc on Westdale residents
Hamilton's new nuisance party bylaw may have helped, but residents living near McMaster University were still subject to large unsanctioned parties.

Many residents in the Westdale area of Hamilton are still recovering from the large, unsanctioned McMaster University homecoming parties that took over their neighbourhoods this past weekend.

Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson wants McMaster to help foot the bill for the clean-up and the number of city resources that were required. Even the London Police Service was called in to assist local officers with enforcement.

Unsanctioned homecoming parties have become an annual issue for the city, with residents living near McMaster being left to deal with the destruction of property, including the flipping of a vehicle, and the fear and discomfort associated with thousands of party-goers flooding the streets.

“Residents in the area were not able to leave their homes for at least 12 hours,” Wilson told 900 CHML Monday morning. “I don’t think that’s acceptable.”

The city and the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) worked to implement a new bylaw last month aimed at curbing “nuisance” parties with fines up to $10,000. On Monday, the city said 11 tickets were issued under the nuisance party bylaw. There were60 calls for service, nine arrests, and a total of 16 bylaw charges and provincial offence issued.

Working collaboratively with the city, McMaster and our first responder partners enabled us to address the negative impacts of unsanctioned street gatherings,” HPS Supt. Dave Hennick stated on MOnday. “Community safety and well-being is a shared responsibility and this weekend’s events were a good example of what happens when we work together.”

Nuisance parties are defined by activities such as excessive noise, public drunkenness and urination, property damage, obstructing traffic, illegal open burning, and illegal use of fireworks.

 

Hamilton police tweeted at 1:16 p.m. on Saturday that they would be deploying drones in the area of Dalewood Ave. and Leland St. “as part of managing reports of an unsanctioned large gathering.”

At 5:15 p.m., a nuisance party was declared on Dalewood, between Westwood and Haddon avenues.

“Attendees are hereby ordered to disperse or be subject to fines under the Nuisance Party Bylaw,” tweeted police.

At 10:08 p.m., police tweeted that they were “working to disperse gatherings throughout the Westdale communities.”

“These crowds are disruptive to residents in the area and pose significant safety risks for those in attendance,” read the tweet.

At 10:32 p.m., a nuisance party was declared on Gary Ave. between Westwood Ave. and Main St. West.

“Attendees are hereby ordered to disperse or be subject to fines under the Nuisance Party Bylaw,” police reiterated.

The city and police are working on compiling data and official taxpayer cost estimates associated with the weekend’s enforcement, but as a reference, Wilson cited the cost of managing and dispersing St. Patrick’s Day parties near the university at $250,000.

She wishes McMaster would step up and help pay.

“I know that Queen’s University has finally come to the table and is helping to offset the cost of that event in the city of Kingston. I think $300,000 for over three years,” Wilson told 900 CHML.

McMaster president David Farrar issued a statement on Sunday, thanking the city and police for their “comprehensive approach to managing unsanctioned street parties near campus this weekend.”

“We appreciate the tremendous efforts made by our emergency partners,” said Farrar. “Months of working together and detailed planning have helped keep the neighbourhoods around the university as safe as possible during the large and unsanctioned street parties this weekend. The university will continue to work with city agencies as they keep our community safe.”

Farrar added that “most” of McMaster’s students adhered to the new bylaw.

“Universities across the country are facing similar challenges, and we will continue to work collaboratively to find solutions to these parties that attract a wide range of people to Hamilton,” he said.

The issue of unsanctioned partying near McMaster was especially prominent last year, when up to 5,000 people took over surrounding neighbourhoods, resulting in numerous charges.

The head of city bylaw declared that the teamwork between the police, city and university was relatively successful.

“The approval of the new City-wide Nuisance Party By-law by Council proved to be effective and gave teams on the ground an additional tool to ensure the safety of the community and to hold individuals accountable for excessive noise, attending or hosting nuisance parties and gatherings,” licensing and bylaw services director Monica Ciriello stated on Monday.

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