Cape Place earning noisy reputation

Monday, November 5, 2001

Some of the neighbors who live near the Cape Place Apartments at the corner of Sprigg and Bertling have taken to calling the complex by a different name -- Party Place.

That's because they say that the noise that comes from the year-old apartments that cater to college students has become nearly intolerable.

"We have to keep the house all closed up, and even then you can still hear the noise," said Gene Johnson, 75, who lives on Scott's Lane about 130 feet from Cape Place. "If we open the windows or go outside, it's loud."

The noise isn't the only reason that Randy Head is moving his family from nearby Brenda Lane to Marble Hill, but he said it's a lot of it.

"The loud parties, waking me up at 3 o'clock in the morning, music, hooting and hollering, drunk parties, we've had enough," said Head, 42. "We can sit in the house with all the windows closed and it just blares."

The Cape Girardeau Police Department reports that it has received 45 calls to the apartment complex since June 4, most of which were peace disturbance calls.

Numbers for calls to Village on the Green -- also a largely college complex -- were not available for comparison, but Lt. Carl Kinnison said, "We probably respond to Village on the Green with the same regularity."

Meanwhile, managers of the eight-building complex acknowledge that there have been noise problems, but that they take precautions to keep those to a minimum.

"Doesn't every apartment that caters primarily to college students make a little noise?" said local property manager Lane Taylor. "For a lot of these kids, it's their first time away from home. They've had a couple loud parties, but this is not anything that severe."

Two officers live there

Taylor said that the complex self-polices. She's issued about 11 fines for noise problems since school started. Two Cape Girardeau police officers live at the apartment rent-free in exchange for doing daily walk-throughs, monitoring parking and being on site in case of problems. They also can issue noise violations.

Lease agreements also restrict loud parties or noises that will be disturbing to others, she said.

Kim Lee is the regional manager for Cape Place. Cape Place is operated by Collegiate Properties, based in Atlanta.

"Unfortunately, we can't determine what someone's going to do before they do it," she said. "But we don't want it to be party central. There are students there, and we want them to be able to study."

For the past two years in October, Cape Place has sponsored a "welcome back to school party," featuring a live band, for which all 310 tenants were invited. No one is sure how many people turned out.

Live bands an issue

While some neighbors say the noise problem is constant, others who live a bit farther away say the live bands have been the main problem.

"The first time, I was so mad I couldn't see straight," said D.D. Buerkle, who lives on Scott's Lane. "In the middle of the week? Children live on this street and they're playing music so loud they can't sleep. It's ludicrous."

Taylor said that police came to the party and shut it down.

"It was all quiet after that," she said. "But I thought by scheduling it from 7-10, it would end early enough not to disturb anybody. It never occurred to me that anybody would be going to bed before 10 p.m."

Susan Elayer, who also lives on Scott's Lane, says that these parties are a clear violation of the noise ordinance. The city's noise ordinance says that from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., it is illegal to operate any radio, television, drum, musical instrument and sound amplifier to the point that it disturbs other people.

It goes on to say that such noise is also illegal at any other time if it creates a noise disturbance unless the activity is open to the public or if a license has been granted by the city. The first year Cape Place got a permit, Taylor said, but they did not this year, but were told by police and city officials they could have a live band as long as it stopped by 11 p.m.

Elayer said that is a misinterpretation of the law.

"The city is giving people wrong information," she said. "They don't even know what their own laws are. They can't have a live band at all if it disturbs other people. I don't know why people can't read this and understand it."

Case by case

City attorney Eric Cunningham said that Elayer is right that noise disturbances can take place even outside the time frame set up in the ordinance.

The question comes down to a section of the ordinance that says it has to be disruptive to a reasonable person.

"That's why the time frame is there," Cunningham said. "A noise disturbance late at night is more likely to be an annoyance than the same activity between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m."

Cunningham said police have to go on a case-by-case basis and determine what the person is complaining about.

"I may not like loud music in the afternoon, but it may be that I'm overly sensitive," he said. "That's really a fact question for the police and a judge, if it gets that far. Some people, if you drop a pin next to their house during the middle of the day, want you to get lost."

The complaints aren't all coming from the outside. Residents of Cape Place who were contacted also said the apartments can be loud.

"If I was the neighbors behind us, I wouldn't like it either," said one tenant. "It can get really noisy here."

Christa Garrett, a 21-year-old senior, has lived at Cape Place since May.

"There was a drag race right outside my window at four in the morning," she said. "Parties are loud in the building right next to me. They constantly have loud music and I'm trying to sleep. It can get pretty annoying."

335-6611, extension 137

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