Thursday, August 09, 2007

Town vs. Students, Part 2

Earlier in the year, I posted about a situation brewing in the Dallas suburb of University Park. The controversy stemmed from the city's desire to start enforcing an old ordinance prohibiting more than two unrelated people from sharing a dwelling. The big problem with that is that there are plenty of SMU students (since that's the university for which the city is named) living in condos in the city...and most of said condos are three bedrooms.

On Monday, City Council revisited the issue. There's certainly a good reason for them to modify the ordinance to fit the three-bedroom condos:
About 1,130 students list a mailing address in one of the two University Park ZIP codes, an SMU official said, though one of those ZIP codes includes part of Highland Park.

"You've got all these apartment developers wanting to build three-bedroom apartments," said Dan Sefko, a planning consultant hired by the city. "Are you going to have two people living there? Probably not."

Mr. Sefko said the ordinance is extremely difficult to enforce anyway and would be based primarily on complaints from neighbors. Mr. Sefko said that his research shows the definition varies in other cities that are home to major universities, but that his firm never recommends a definition lower than three.
But on Tuesday, the council decided to delay the vote, sending the measure back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for more work:
Mayor Blackie Holmes and other council members said they were concerned about how the change would affect residents in areas zoned for single-family housing.

"We want to be sure that we get this right and go at it the right way," Mr. Holmes said. "And we've gotten several letters – more than that – with respect to three [unrelated] individuals living under the same roof in single-family districts."

Last month, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended a compromise measure to change the definition of family in areas zoned for multifamily uses but leave it alone in single-family neighborhoods. But city attorney Robert Dillard rejected that recommendation, arguing that it's not legally sound to have two definitions of the same word in one city.

Mr. Holmes said Tuesday that he hopes the commission recommends a new measure that would accomplish the same goal without any definition of the word family.
Ahh, they're caught up in the micro-details. So there will be another sequel to this post after the council votes again, which will likely be in two months. But my hat is off to the council for taking the students' needs into consideration instead of just automatically siding with the moneyed homeowners. Further kudos go out to them for agreeing not to enforce the ordinance until the vote, and it's my hope that, if it is upheld in that vote, that no students will be forced to move out until the fall academic term is over.

An unconventional way to gather evidence: A man in India was suspected of snatching a gold necklace and then swallowing it, so police forced him to eat 40 bananas in the hopes that he would, umm, pass on the evidence. But believe it or not, the bananas didn't do the trick; the police weren't able to retrieve their booty (so to speak) until they fed him a big meal of chicken and rice.

Cool gadget of the week: It's a printer! It's a table! No, wait...It's both!

Really cool gadget of the week: Fujitsu has come up with a 231-inch TV. It's almost 20 feet across, which means that if I started at the near end of my living room wall, it would go out the door and take up most of my (admittedly rather small) backyard. (Also, its recommended viewing distance is about five-and-a-half yards, so that would be the end of my bedroom wall as well. But that's all rendered moot by the fact that I can't afford its $531K price tag.)

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to James Lileks, one of my favorite writers, and proprietor of the buzz and Bleat (which, said together, sounds like a charming little country tavern).

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