West Chester U students and the rest of the town…perfect together?

I realize this will make Joe Norley madder than hell, but …

Daily Local reporter Jeremy Gerrard reported today that West Chester University students thinking of living in the Town Center zoning district may have missed their chance. Borough Council has voted to design an ordinance that would eliminate student housing as a permitted use in the district.

This ordinance will be written by the borough’s solicitors and discussed in a public hearing before it can be implemented.

The Town Center district lies roughly from Franklin Street on the east to Wayne Street on the west and from Chestnut Street in the north to Cedar Alley in the south. The district extends at High Street, jutting south until it reaches Price Street.

Under the Fair Housing Act, students are not considered a “protected class” of citizens, so council is able to restrict housing available to them.

Properties in Town Center currently used for student housing will be able to keep that designation, though there was no consensus if that right would be forfeited should a non-student tenant occupy the dwelling at a later date.

According to West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, this change was a suggestion made to the borough by the Urban Land Institute, which suggested encouraging an older demographic to populate the town center to build business. Comitta said this should be seen as an opportunity to update and utilize the borough’s experts.

“The idea here is to promote a different sort of culture in the downtown,” said Councilman Stephen Shinn. “Not attract more students to downtown, that’s why we want to move in this direction. This is just to start the project.”

Here’s where Joe will be mad. And this very topic was discussed Thursday morning on WCHE during out weekly pow-wow.

I agree with parts of this whole discussion and disagree with other parts.

I agree that:

— Students need to act like adults and be responsible. If they’re not 21, they shouldn’t be drinking alcohol and peeing on peoples’ lawns.

— Students shouldn’t be rioting like the 2008 Phillies post-World Series celebration that took place with cars overturned and fires being lit. This isn’t Beirut.

— Students should do their best to integrate with the town and be part of it. They need to keep it clean and be respectful of the rights of others.

Those three things being said, when you bring together nearly 14,000 or 15,000 kids ages 18 to 22 you are going to have some issues. And if even 50 students are problems, when you look at the total number, it’s really a small figure.

Hold your fire!

Before you start that hateful comment, those same 50 students while a small number can be a real pain in the butt to a lot of people who happen to live near the university. I will agree to that 100 percent. Peeing or puking on the lawn, damaging property, cars, is not now or will ever be acceptable.

So what’s the answer? Well, on WCHE we talked about campus police entering deeper into the borough to respond to problems involving students. To me that’s a bad idea considering that the university isn’t protected by this massive police force. And if they’re not on campus and there are problems on campus, who’s minding the store?

I also don’t think hitting restaurants and bars with some sort of tax isn’t fair either because who’s to know which patrons are students and which are not? If we are saying the bars and restaurants should generally kick in some cash for increased police protection I can buy into that. But we can’t keep blaming everything on the university.

How about the state kicking in some of the gambling proceeds or lottery proceeds to help fund either additional borough police or at least the overtime necessary on the weekends to keep things under control?

And lastly, we all need to realize that this is a county seat and a university/college town. We can curse the kids all we like but the fact is that these kids spend lots of money in our businesses and not just bars and restaurants. We need to get over that and appreciate the good kids there — because they do exist. As with anything else in life, it only takes a couple of nitwits to ruin it for the good people. And WCU is no different.

This is a complicated issue and there are right now no clear answers. However, I think before we start building fences to keep these kids out, perhaps there are other answers. To me this is a frustration move. And nothing good in the long run ever comes from a frustration move.

Let’s think hard about this move before proceeding.

— Andy Hachadorian

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About fromtheeditorchair

I am the editor of the Daily Local News.
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2 Responses to West Chester U students and the rest of the town…perfect together?

  1. Jon B. says:

    I really don’t understand the Borough’s love-hate relationship with the University and the students. I’ve got quite a few friends that came to West Chester for school and never left… Our town is a great little town. Our business district is unique, at least within our County. Yes, there’s a bar scene. Part of that is University students, part of that is young professionals that live in town, and part of that is others that live in the area – or even come to town from surrounding areas. Yes, there are knuckleheads. There are also a LOT of good students
    The idea of a special tax district for all liquor licenses has been brought up before. The conventional wisdom at the time was that the vast majority of “issues” involve alcohol – even when they don’t involve students. As far as I can tell, Towayne Uqdah wasn’t a University student – but both he and his attackers were drinking in a borough establishment before he was shot. Heck, before we start talking about quality-of-life issues like vomit on sidewalks, how about we talk about the fact that someone was murdered 4 blocks from my house. This isn’t the first time there’s been a serious assault fueled by alcohol provided by that establishment. Why hasn’t it been branded a nuisance bar and shut down?
    Anyway – I don’t think that restricting student housing even further is the answer. The students that want to go to the bars will still go, and there will still be a few bad apples that trash the town and give the rest of the students a bad name. The only way to actually SOLVE the problems that are being blamed on the students is increased enforcement of the laws and borough codes currently on the books. Easy answer: More police, and a continued effort by the LCB to enforce their regulations. Oh, and if town is “dirty” – perhaps an increased Public Works presence to clean common areas and keep everything looking nice. That can well be funded out of a “pour tax” too.

  2. Joe Norley says:

    Though I disagree with the editor summation of the problem and issues I’m certainly not mad. The editor states that the problem comes from 50 or so students which is about 1000 students short of reality. There is an extreme lack of consideration by these actors for the residents and the town and here to fore there has been little consequences for their behavior. There are hundreds of violators of our ordinances on any given night particularly regarding screaming and loud obnoxious belligerence. The editor implies that students will not be able to live downtown where hundreds already do when the fact of the matter is none of these student rentals will disappear. We have thousands of students living throughout West Chester and all of those rentals will remain. The council in there wisdom has understood that the downtown environment is in perilous danger of loosing the quaintness and quality of life livability that taxpaying residents desire for their town.
    As far as the bars and restaurants who enjoy the profits of over $22,000,000 in booze sales per year have contributed next to nothing and my view is they also need to step up to the plate and share in the expenses that residents pay to subsidize our police who try to control the excesses of alcohol being served. Residents legitimately could feel mad that these profiteers do nothing to help.

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