Williamsburg City Council member Judy Knudson said the three-person rule does not work in a forum with students on Wednesday night.
Much of the discussion focused on the debate surrounding the three-person rule, the controversial city ordinance stating that no more than three unrelated people can live in one house. Students also brought up business and public transportation issues.
The event was sponsored by Students for a Better Williamsburg, a political action committee started by students to promote the interests of students in the City of Williamsburg.
Knudson first addressed the city’s lawsuit against the residents of 711 Richmond Rd., who have been charged with violating the three-person rule. Knudson responded to the allegations that the evidence for evicting the residents had been obtained illegally.
“The attorney … does not feel that the law has been broken in this case. Otherwise she would have never brought this case forward,” Knudson said. “It’s up to the courts [to determine whether to drop the case]. This is well beyond the realm of City Council now.”
She went on to argue that the real issue in the case was the three-person ordinance itself.
“Why it ever got this far is the problem, and why we have this problem is we have this ordinance that doesn’t work,” Knudson said. “I think [the ordinance] needs to be modified. I think it’s probably not a bad ordinance for most of the city, but I think there are parts of the city where we could, in fact, have more than [three unrelated] people in a house.”
She acknowledged that the housing issues students face in Williamsburg also affect the College’s employees.
“None of the [staff] can afford to live in Williamsburg,” she said. “I’ve heard from that group over and over again that the students prevent them from finding affordable housing because the students are willing to pay more than they can afford.”
Knudson suggested building more student housing on campus to help alleviate some of the conflict raised by the three-person ordinance. She also mentioned two building projects the city council was encouraging to create more apartments close to campus.
In response to a student suggestion that the College administration become more involved in disciplining rowdy student behavior off campus, Knudson said that “the huge thing missing in this discussion is the College administration.”
Knudson also addressed Williamsburg’s inefficient public transportation system.
She said the city council was looking into improving the bus system — especially the campus-serving Green Line — in order to reduce wait times, and was planning on putting in a trolley that would run between High Street, New Town and Merchant’s Square.
In her final remarks, Knudson stressed the importance of improving the relationship between the students of the College and the residents of Williamsburg.
“[There’s] this feeling, I’m not sure where it came from, that students aren’t welcome in Williamsburg,” she said. “Most of the people I know are here because the College is here. I think there’s this level of misunderstanding, and I just hope we can get around that.”
The question and answer session with Knudson left Sen. Matt Pinsker ’09 feeling optimistic about the future of the College’s relationship with the city.
“[Knudson] spoke favorably regarding students’ issues and sounded as if she is a person we can work with to build bridges and create solutions in our community,” Pinsker said after the meeting.
Pinsker did, however, show some skepticism as to whether the positive rapport would last.
“We do have some reservations because of what occurred when [Vice Mayor] Clyde Haulman last spoke to students,” Pinsker said, referring to the vice mayor’s dichotomous remarks made in November both praising and criticizing the campus escort service Steer Clear.
“He told us what we wanted to hear, then days later referred to students as drunks vomiting and urinating on lawns and bushes.”