Housing talks stalled

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November 21, 2008

1:58 AM

Students at the College of William and Mary will have to wait until next year for any revisions to the controversial three-person rule, the Williamsburg planning commission decided yesterday.

The proposal, developed by city representatives and members of the College’s Student Assembly, would allow four unrelated persons to live in a home together if the home has more than 1,200 square feet and four parking spaces, among other requirements.

In a public meeting, the commission unanimously decided to postpone any action on the proposed changes to Williamsburg’s housing regulations until February of next year at the earliest.

The three-person rule dictates that no more than three unrelated persons can live in a house or apartment, and has long been a point of contention between permanent city residents and students of the College.

Planning commission Chairman Douglas Pons said voting on the possible revisions at the commission’s December meeting would be rushing the necessary deliberations, while discussing revisions during the summer meetings would send the wrong message to students.

“We don’t want to talk about [issues that affect students] when they’re not here,” Pons said.

The decision to postpone any action on the proposed revisions came after several Williamsburg residents spoke out against changing the three-person rule during the commission’s public forum last week.

Williamsburg resident Charles Rittinger spoke in support of the ruling, saying the majority of Williamsburg residents support the current ordinances.

“We had a City Council election between Judy Knudson who supported the three-person rule and Gil Granger, the former mayor [who came out against the rule],” Rittinger said. “Knudson won and Granger lost. I think the residents spoke.”

Dave Johnson ’09 disagreed with Rattinger’s comments, saying the election was not a community-wide referendum on changing the three-person rule.

“[The election] was during finals period at a time when many students are too busy to make time for an election,” Johnson said.

Other residents’ complaints ranged from crowded parking and loud parties to reduced home values and students’ lack of “a stake in the community.”

Williamsburg resident Bill Dell said that the City Council was acting irresponsibly by passing the issue to the planning commission, which deals mostly with zoning issues in Williamsburg.

“[The issue of the three-person rule] has been thrust on you without any specific guidelines,” Dell said.
Dell also blamed the College administrators for a lack of regard for the city’s housing issues, but sees new president Taylor Reveley as more open to conversations than prior College administrations.

“Most citizens are dead-set against [amending the ordinance], but the council feels it necessary to help students with off-campus housing,” Dell said. “The key to solving this problem is the participation of the [College] administration.”

Commission member William Kafes blamed resident concerns about student renters on the College’s culture and lack of social options.

“If the College had a more active social life on campus, these problems wouldn’t be off campus,” Kafes said.
Kafes also wanted the commission to look into how off-campus living affects students’ academic performances and graduation rates compared to students who reside on-campus.

Commission member Jim Joseph said the more pressing issue is enforcement of the current ordinance.

“Unless you can enforce the three-person rule, the four-person rule shouldn’t even fly,” Joseph said.

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