City Council approves allowing exceptions to 3-person rule

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December 10, 2009

5:02 PM

The Williamsburg City Council approved a resolution at its Dec. 10 meeting that would allow landlords to submit their properties for permits that would expand the residential occupancy limit to four unrelated individuals.

The resolution, which was prepared outside of council by Vice Mayor Clyde Haulman, was approved by a 3-2 margin. Mayor Jeanne Zeidler, Haulman and Paul Freiling voted in favor of the resolution, with council members Judy Knudson and Bobby Braxton voting against

“For students, it’s good news,” Josh Karp ’10, managing director of Students for a Better Williamsburg PAC said.

Under the amended ordinance, properties within the city’s four rental inspection districts that exceed 2000 square feet would, under administrative approval, be eligible to allow up to four unrelated tenants. The properties would have to meet the approval of the city’s zoning administrator.

“I do this because, in essence, the three person rule remains in effect. What this does is allow certain exceptions when [criteria] are met,” Haulman said. “I also do this because there has been an effort by the College and the students … to engage in the process.”

Haulman’s proposal was unexpected, and had not been included in the agenda packet composed prior to the meeting.

According to Councilman Paul Freiling, Haulman had not provided him a copy of the proposal prior to the meeting.

Several residents expressed outrage at the council for voting on a resolution they hadn’t had a chance to examine.

“You all have put things on the table that should be looked over,” resident Bill Dell said, interrupting the vote.

Originally, the council was to consider three proposals that had been submitted by the planning commission. The first left the three-person rule in effect with updated language. The second proposed an expansion to a four-person limit, but did not specify where the ordinance would be effective, the process by which houses would be approved or criteria for approval. The third option expanded the possibility of a four-person limit to multi-family dwellings within the city’s B-3 zoning district.

Haulman’s proposal combined technical elements of options two and three. Namely, the administrative approval mechanism from option three and enhanced enforcement for single-family dwellings from option two.

According to information presented at the meeting, only 31 houses and 18 apartments appear to be eligible for an approved increase to four unrelated tenants.

Copies of the resolution are not yet available.

“I was very disappointed,” Stewart Goodin, a resident who had spoken against expanding the ordinance, said. “We spent all this time … and they blew it off. It’s not democracy.”

The Student Assembly issued a statement on the resolution at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

“Mayor Zeidler and two of her colleagues initiated an important step towards strengthening the community today. Since 1991, the three person rule has resulted in a division between residents in Williamsburg. The vote today is the first step for closing that divide.

“As members of the student assembly we look forward to working with the city and are committed to being an integral part of the policy changes that must continue. The student assembly has been
working diligently this year and in years past to address this issue, and we applaud Vice Mayor Haulman for his leadership and for being aware of the complexities of this problem. We are committed to working closely with the city to confront future challenges in a way that is advantageous to both the college and city residents who have expressed reservations about today’s change. The student assembly would like to see this ordinance expanded to affect more people and after today’s discussion it is clear that several members of city council agree.

“City Council’s decision today is the most influential step in the past twenty years towards creating opportunities for future collaborations with the college, city council, residents, and landlords.”

Students for a Better Williamsburg also released a statement praising the resolution.

“Students for a Better Williamsburg is both pleased and encouraged by the results of today’s City Council meeting. Council’s decision to approve an increase in the number of unrelated residents per housing unit from three to four, given administrative approval, demonstrates a marked step in the right direction for Williamsburg town-gown relations. We applaud Council’s willingness to decrease requirements for houses’ eligibility and extend the plan to the B3 District. Students for a Better Williamsburg would like to especially thank Vice-Mayor Haulman for his bold presentation of a comprehensive, effective first step to addressing the fundamental housing issues facing Williamsburg.

“Today’s decision is the result of countless hours of deliberation and debate by members of the Williamsburg community, and truly demonstrated the level of commitment and dedication that residents of all kinds have to their city. Students for a Better Williamsburg is optimistic that the compromise reached today is indicative of further cooperation and collaboration between students, long-term residents, and the city in attempts to improve the place that we all call home.”

Check back with Flathatnews.com for more on this developing story.

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