3-Person Focus Group Looking for What’s Best for City

February 27th, 2009 by WY Daily Staff

The Focus Group on Rental Properties Near the College of William and Mary established their interests, not positions, during their weekly meeting Thursday night.

The 13-member group was appointed by Mayor Jeanne Zeidler to find any amendments to the three-person ordinance and propose them to the city by the end of April.

The three-person ordinance is the City of Williamsburg’s rule that prohibits more than three unrelated persons from living in the same residence.

They first determined that by ‘interest’ they mean needs, desires and fears of the groups they represent. These groups include homeowners, students, landlords, the College of William and Mary and the city of Williamsburg.

Doug Pons, a member who’s also chairman of Williamsburg’s planning commission, spoke up first.

“We need to find the best interest of the city overall,” he said. “We need a consensus.”

From there, the group shared, one-by-one, their summations of a “best interest.”

They all agreed that safety is the number one concern.

Member Bill Talley, a college terrace area homeowner, made it clear that when there are more people living in a house than the house is designed for it can create safety hazards such as overloading the power outlets and causing fires.

After some discussion the group also agreed that no matter what recommendations they make to the city the rule needs to be enforceable. They agreed that as it stands the rule is not followed or consistently enforced.

They also agreed that William and Mary needs to be more involved in the off-campus housing issue.

“It’s not a good program to attract people and say if it’s not on our land it’s no problem,” said Greg Granger, member and rental property owner.

A component of that is the alcohol restriction on campus, said Nick Fitzgerald, a student member. According to Fitzgerald, students of drinking age who live in dorms are allowed to possess the equivalent of one bottle of wine at a time.

“It drives the parties off campus, which breeds bad behavior, like drinking and driving,” Fitzgerald said.

The group’s list of shared interests – like parking enforcement and trash and property maintenance – fall under the main goal of being a responsible neighbor and resident.

“I have an interest in the residents viewing the city as an ally,” said Granger. He argued that the city is here to help, not hinder, when it comes to codes and compliance.

The group plans to have officials from William and Mary join in the discussion next week so they can research and discuss the college’s involvement.

Until then, the group’s progress can be tracked on their Website.

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