Castleton considers open container ordinance with teeth
By Darren Marcy
Staff Writer | September 25,2013
CASTLETON — Walking in public with an open container of alcohol is about to get a lot more expensive once a proposed ordinance is put in place.
The Select Board overwhelmingly supported an open-container ordinance at its meeting Monday night. It will be brought back to the board at its next meeting for ratification, after which it will be advertised before it goes into effect — probably in November.
Among the points debated Monday night was the severity of the fines. The board settled on $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense.
The board — and the residents in attendance — wanted to ensure the ordinance would serve as a deterrent.
Selectman Wenger Rehlen expressed concern about the dollar amount.
“One thousand dollars is a lot of cash,” Rehlen said, to which several people pointed out that was exactly the point.
“I say make it hurt,” Selectwoman Cristine Smith said.
After some discussion, Rehlen floated the idea of making the fine top out at $500. But the room was in no mood for it and demanded the higher fine to serve as a deterrent.
Several questions about the ordinance were answered.
The open-container ordinance would apply to cans and bottles as well as plastic cups and other containers with alcoholic beverages. It would be in effect throughout the entire town of Castleton, not just the village.
It would only apply to public areas and have no effect on private property. Also, businesses that offer sidewalk dining or have an outdoor area would be OK because they would have a permit for that activity.
There would also be a provision to allow people to get a permit for parties or one-time activities.
It would not apply to the ice during the winter on Lake Bomoseen because that is controlled by the state, not the town.
Police Chief Bruce Sherwin said he supported the measure.
“It’s not that we want to go out and write these tickets,” Sherwin said. “But it should be an educational process.”
Town Manager Charles Jacien said the ordinance has been in the works for three or four years since the town passed a noise ordinance.
“We are one of the few municipalities in the county that does not have an open-container ordinance,” Jacien said.
When asked if the ordinance was in response to action by Castleton State College students, the town manager said only, “It’s another tool at (law enforcement’s) disposal for curbing bad behavior.”