Sunday, January 21, 2007

Town vs. Students

I read an interesting article over the weekend. It's a common story, one in which college students who live in rental housing close to campus are pitted against their often not-so-understanding neighbors:
The complaints rising in this neighborhood may ring familiar to some urban residents: Lack of parking. Too much noise. Lots of trash.

But the culprits cited by University Park neighbors are not commonplace: SMU students.

Too many of the collegians and others live in the area's rental units, violating an ordinance, according to neighbors. Residents say that while many Southern Methodist University students follow the rules, the problems a few generate are unacceptable.

"We're out of control," University Park resident Mary Graves said. "We have a problem with parking. We have a problem with trash, with beer bottles, with pizza boxes in the street, with cups from fast-food restaurants thrown in the shrubbery."
Their answer? Enforce a long-on-the-books but often-ignored ordinance that prohibits more than two unrelated people from sharing a residence, be it a house or a condo.
Mayor Blackie Holmes said the council opted to give owners and tenants the benefit of the doubt that they weren't aware of the ordinance. After June 1, however, anyone violating the ordinance will be asked to leave. Property owners will be fined up to $2,000 a day.

"Whether it's midterm or otherwise, they will have to move," Mr. Holmes said.
The only problem is that the majority of condos near campus (many of which are owned by students' parents) have three bedrooms. It's too bad the ordinance didn't take that into consideration.
Mike Bandy, 21, called the decision and ordinance "bogus."

The SMU senior lives in a condo on Rosedale Avenue owned by his parents. He said most of the condos and townhouses close to campus – including the two his parents own on Rosedale – have three bedrooms. "You can't find a condo that only has two bedrooms in it," he said.

Mr. Bandy said at least three students live in every unit in his building. He has two roommates, one fewer than last year.
I don't have a dog in this fight; my one close friend at SMU is an RA and will probably be one for the foreseeable future. But I sure hate to see people in a college town--albeit a very upscale one--acting in such a hostile fashion towards the students when even they acknowledge that the majority of the students are good neighbors. Punishing the many for the misdeeds of the few is never a good way to deal with a problem.

This ordinance should have been tweaked a long time ago; if the three-bedroom condos were already there before it was passed, it should have reflected that reality, and if they have been built since the ordinance, the units should have been built with only two bedrooms, or the law should have been adjusted at that time.

Ultimately, this will be bad for the town in the long run:
Mr. Bandy said the growing lack of housing will hurt University Park's bottom line because many students will buy or lease property outside the city. His parents are considering selling one of their apartments on Rosedale, partly because of the restrictions. Matt Dixon, a Plano resident who owns several multifamily buildings near SMU, said the real problem isn't landlords or students.

"The problem is bad landlords and bad students," he said.
It seems as though the students have learned the proper lesson already; let's hope that the townspeople will follow suit.

Speaking of bad neighbors: Here's a great story about a New York apartment-dweller and the eccentric neighbor lady who registered complaints by leaving notes underneath his door.

They just wanted to study engineering before they got to college: Two Ohio teenagers walked out of their unlocked juvenile detention center and took a train for a joyride.

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