Most College of William and Mary students who have been bumped during the housing lottery know the frustration of searching for an apartment in Williamsburg. Infamously bad town-gown relation have plagued off-campus students for years. Regardless, as the College continues to expand, the need for more off-campus housing is also increasing.
Last semester, the city considered reducing the restrictions on the three-person rule, suggesting that some of the coolness between students and residents might be beginning to thaw. This month, the City Council adopted the 2013 Comprehensive Plan, which removes the cap on residential density for downtown Williamsburg. This action means more potential development for the city that could provide more off-campus housing options to students. The same plan was rejected in 2006 due to resident opposition. This year when residents voiced their questions and concerns about the new plan, the opposition had decreased significantly. The City Council passed the plan unanimously. We applaud residents for becoming more open to change that will benefit both the College and the city.
Williamsburg needs to attract more young adults to increase revenue and to continue to grow. What some city residents seem to have forgotten in the past is that there are thousands of young adults who already live in the city as students at the College. Instead of shunning students during their time at the College, the city should consider the student body a resource for revenue. By encouraging more students to stay, live and work in Williamsburg, the city can continue to grow and improve rather than age and decay.
The 2013 Comprehensive Plan will make more efficient use of land and will help to make the city more attractive. While many tourists may flock to Duke of Gloucester street, only a short walk away, the empty lot on Prince George Street is an eyesore. Throughout the city, students live in slummy apartments and houses. The lack of choice in housing means that landlords have no reason to spruce up their properties. If students have more options from new apartments, then landlords might take the initiative to clean up some of the less attractive sections of the city.
We understand that we are talking about downtown Williamsburg, where many residents still do not want students living next door. We believe this an understandable concern. Implementing the comprehensive plan, however, will encourage students to live in clusters of apartments in the city, which will mean fewer students living in houses in subdivisions around Williamsburg.
This year’s Comprehensive Plan has not passed without a few rumbling complaints from residents. These complaints will always exist in a college town. Nevertheless, the plan is a practical move that shows the city is doing something both progressive and pro-student.
The city and the College have more in common than either students or residents would like to admit. Both emphasize history and the past, but both need to be flexible to change and new growth in order to survive. We are proud to see that the city is taking steps toward new business and creativity.