Orono town officials are exploring the possibility of requiring permits for mass gatherings.

In recent years, the advent of larger student housing complexes in Orono, coupled with social media that allows word of parties to travel within seconds, had caused some consternation for the town. There have been numerous occasions where law enforcement agencies from nearby towns, along with state police and the county, have been brought in to break parties up.

The town does have a disorderly property ordinance on its books already, but Town Manager Sophie Wilson told the town council at a recent committee meeting that that ordinance, which can be used for everything from just a few people to huge parties, is too broad a brush and cumbersome to work with at times – and that its mechanism of a warning before action doesn’t work in the case of large gatherings. One way to handle the issue, said Wilson, could be requiring permits. In addition to capping the size of a group, a permit could include stipulations such as having adequate security, dumpsters, stormwater containment, a means of handling traffic and security to be provided by the permittee. A permit violation then could result in a party being shut down immediately/

“The hope is this would incentivize places ripe for large gatherings of people to be proactive to stop unruly behavior,” said Wilson, who noted that most landlords and property owners deal with problems quickly, but there always are a few who are slow to move. Wilson added that UMaine officials have acknowledged they have a role to play in keeping gathering under control, and that they are willing to help the town with party problems.

Town councilors agreed to have staff look at gathering permits being used elsewhere. The issue will again be reviewed at a future council meeting.