Residents say no to 4-person ordinance

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November 11, 2008

2:12 AM

Potential revisions to the controversial three-person rule dominated discussion during Monday’s work session meeting. Several Williamsburg residents spoke against the possible change.

The Williamsburg City Council and the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly were negotiating possible changes to the three-person rule, which bars more than three unrelated people from living in a single unit together.

The proposed modifications, outlined last night, would allow four unrelated people to live in a single housing unit in the city after completing an application process.

If a house meets the requirements put forth in the current proposal — including at least 1,200 square feet of finished living space and parking space for four vehicles — it will be “essentially prequalified,” Deputy City Attorney Christina Workman said.

If a substantial complaint that more than four people are occupying the residence is made, the zoning commissioner must provide 24-hour notice before inspecting the property.

City Council member Judy Knudson questioned the 24-hour notice.

“If you give people 24 hours they can turn a bedroom into a family room,” she said. “Why do we have to do the 24 hours notice, and what can we do to fix that?”

In response, Workman said, “This is a voluntary program, so we can set the terms of it. I think that the 24 hours came from both a concern on the part of the Student Assembly members who were involved in the discussion that someone doesn’t just show up and knock on their door and demand to come in.”

Several Williamsburg residents voiced their opinions on the business before the City Council at the beginning and end of the meeting. The resident reactions to the potential revisions were overwhelmingly negative.

“I’m in full support of the three-person rule,” Williamsburg resident and president of the Woodlands Homeowners Association Donald Brady said.

According to Brady, students at the College often live in violation of the three-person rule.
Other citizens were concerned with the potential increase in cars parked on Williamsburg streets.

“When you add the rental homes to the long list of homes without any place to park, no driveway, no off-street parking, it gets very crowded there,” Williamsburg resident Suzanne Dell said.
Dell said residents should have oversight with potential changes to the three-person rule.

“I also have read articles in the [Virginia] Gazette and in The Flat Hat regarding the students’ unhappiness that the city will not allow more students to a rental home,” Dell said. “I appreciate their concerns … However, I believe that helping the students opt-out of College housing is not the job of [the City] Council.”
Dell said students’ issues with on-campus housing and the lack of rental homes should be discussed between students and the College, and between the College and Williamsburg residents.

Dell was also opposed to policing student renters herself — the proposal stipulates that inspections can be performed upon complaints from neighbors.

“I cannot be a founded complainant,” Dell said. “We are from the South. We are too polite.”

Not everyone who spoke was against modifying the rule.

“There are only two things I’m concerned about, and that’s parking and parties,” Williamsburg resident Terrence Wehle ’77 said. “We’re not really talking about occupancy, because you can have parties with three people. I really probably wouldn’t mind if there were four students next door to me if there were no parties.”

The majority of those who spoke, however, made their displeasure with the possible revisions clear.

“I want the right to influence the outcome of these deliberations,” Dell said. “I don’t want [the City] Council to contemplate altering the three-person rule on Indian Springs [Road] without the approval of all the home-owners who live there. I think all the city neighborhoods should have that right.”

The City Council will decide whether to send the proposal to the Williamsburg Planning Commission for deliberation Thursday at their 2 p.m. meeting in the Stryker building. According to City Manager Jack Tuttle, the commission could return the proposal, with or without recommendation, to the City Council as soon as February or as late as April of next year.

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