The Williamsburg Planning Commission announced its reticence toward considering the addition of a four-person rule to the Code of Williamsburg in any form Wednesday. While the City Council may have the final say on this matter, we have little hope that it will override a Planning Commission proposal containing no change to the basic structure of the three-person rule, even if it should do so. If this is the case, then two years of political pressure to achieve change will have been for naught.
This tremendous setback appears to have little silver lining and should be received as both a slap in the face to every student at the College of William and Mary and as a reminder that this city does not represent our interests. Now, it up to us to decide how to proceed.
The various positions in this debate have become entrenched, thus making progress in the current political climate elusive. All involved have plenty to get crotchety about — as neighborhoods increase in density, congestion and traffic become worse, and property values tend to decline because rental houses generally show more wear than their family-owned counterparts. On the other hand, students see this rule as unfair on its face; given a house that can safely and comfortably hold more people, why should they be expected to fill it with only three?
Similarly, students think that living off campus is a right of a mature adult desirous of creating his or her own independent living space outside of the dormitories. The standard line from the other side is that moving off campus is the product of an immature desire to simply create a drinking hole with a sufficient number of nice flowerbeds in which to urinate.
Under other circumstances, this situation might be called a stalemate. But since students are under-represented politically in Williamsburg, it has become a rout. Going forward, if we are to expect any change on this issue, we must increase our political presence in this city. This is only possible through voting.
We have tried compromise, but we have too little to bring to the table. For two years, the city, the Student Assembly, student organization, residents, landlords, College administrators and everyday students — among others — have collaborated in the hope of reaching a compromise that would keep all involved happy. From focus group to commission, to the council and back, the buck has been passed again and again, until — finally — this week the Planning Commission announced its intention to begin hammering in the coffin nails on this long-lasting effort. The frustration is immense, and the fear that the plan from the beginning was to string us along in order to quiet our complaints is nothing short of infuriating.
Even if it takes years for us to get back to this point in the process again, we need to be better prepared next time around. This campus needs to change the way it views involvement in local issues, or we will never gain the respect we deserve. The deadline for registering to vote is in two weeks, and this May we need to ensure that we turn out in droves, as a chorus thundering in unison.
The waters of change can move mountains, but they can also be damned. This week presents us with a great opportunity to lie down and give up. Will we? We certainly don’t have to.