From: Kim Lenz
Date: Mon, 11 May 2009 07:35:37 EDT
Subject: Richmond Road
To The Focus Group:
I have a Bed and Breakfast at 616 Richmond Road and I am writing with
grave concerns about the property at 711 Richmond Road and all such
properties that may qualify for more than 3 rental persons.
The owners of this property are absentee landlords and have
demonstrated their inability to control their residents and maintain
their property. Examples are:
On-going loud parties that result in calls to the police by many of
the surrounding neighbors. This after repeated contacts to the city
police, city officials, and in person to the residents
The property appears to be maintained on the surface but there are
significant events that are beginning to erode the value of the house.
Rotting, large, side-porch railings from both sides of the house were
removed last summer. No replacements have been made. There is no
evidence that the ARB is even aware, that they were notified before
the railings were torn down, and no evidence they will be replaced. I
am sure the inside is also suffering from lack of care.
Even if a house has 4 or 6 bedrooms, having adults, especially
students with cars and adult friends with cars, that fill up a house
is very different than a family with children. Chances are very good
the family won't have a noisy, drunken party every weekend!! Also
letting a house turn into a pseudo "boarding house" creates the most
wear and tear on rental property and historically the best way to
start a downward spiral for a neighborhood.
With the inevitable turnover in real estate, all rental properties
have the possibility of being owned by people who live far away with
little investment in the community, like 711 Richmond Road.
Alice Person House
616 Richmond Road
|Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2009 14:40:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 3-Person Rule Idea
Dear 3-Person Rule Focus Group,
I'm currently a student at the College. I've been following the progress of the focus group in our student newspaper, and I really appreciate all the time and effort you've put into discussing this issue.
I had a thought that I figured couldn't hurt to run by you, and even though it is by no means a solution to the current situation, it might have the potential to act as something of a palliative. Is there any way the City could offer incentives to landlords to convert residences that have traditionally rented to students (defined as having x number of student renters in the past y years) into duplexes (when size allows)?
I understand that not all residences can be converted, and that it's not always advantageous to the landlord to do so-- my thinking was just that, if a house has on the order of six bedrooms and has a good likelihood of being rented by students in the future, converting it to two residences would address a lot of the issues that I'm sure have come up in your debates. Students who violate the 3-person rule because rent in a larger house would otherwise be too high would no longer have that motivation; concerns from neighbors about large parties would be effectively cut in half; and, more than anything, the students would have their own peers as neighbors and therefore might be more willing to respond to requests about noise/upkeep from them (the other students) than they would be from Williamsburg residents. There's a ton of problems with this idea, but, again, figured it couldn't hurt to throw it out there to see what you guys think.
PDFs of Comments Received April 16:
|From: David Kranbuehl
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 09:42:09 -0400
Having attended your last meeting, I would like to express my appreciation for the time and effort each of you is devoting to this effort. It is not an easy task to come up with a proposal which balances the desire to enhance the opportunities for students to live in rental houses in neighborhoods near the College and at the same time strengthens the residential nature of these streets for the families/home owners who live there.
Based on the presentations and discussion at the last meeting, I suggest your report should address steps to be taken by a) the College administration , b) the city administration and c) a draft of a plan of guidelines for special use permit to be reviewed and issued by the Planning Commission.
The W&M Dean of Students officers should agree to continue to meet with students based on information from neighbors, city police, and city officials regarding issues/complaints regarding students' off campus behavior, just as the Dean of Students from Christopher Newport does.
The College should agree to implement procedures such as exist at Christopher Newport, which let students know their off campus behavior is subject to the same possible sanctions, penalties as apply if that behavior occurred on campus . As the Dean said, our role as a liberal arts university is to develop good citizenship. Good citizen ship begins now while living in the Williamsburg/College community.
If the College does not move forward in a timely way over the next year to have student handbook procedures similar to Christopher Newport and supported by CN's President, then we should realize it is the College , not the students, residents or city officials that threatens to jeopardize implementation of a more enlightened student rental housing policy.
The top item on your paper criteria list was preserving the residential neighborhoods. Increasing the number of unrelated renters in a house definitely increases the financial advantages of buying a house as a "investment/business" rental property. What nobody wants is to have a given residential block to be dominated by student rentals as exists in a number of university towns.
The city staff and the housing authority officials need to work with residents and provide legal guidance to individual neighborhood groups who wish to set up procedures and develop legally realistic and doable plans which make sure the % of owner occupied homes on a given block over time is no less than 66%. One such idea is to create home owner associations similar to those in newer neighborhoods. Hopefully other viable long range plans/ ideas will arise with in a city resident neighborhood groups over the next year.
CRITERIA FOR A SPECIAL USE PERMIT TO BE EVALUATED BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION WORKING WITH CITY STAFF
* Implement a 3 year program with a sunset provision that requires the initial procedures must be renewed and/or modified after 3 years. This means nothing is permanent. It gives all of us time to see how well it works and what doesn't work.
Guidelines for planning commission members, emphasis on guidelines
1.Only one house per one side of a city block for now
2 House must be adjacent to two owner occupied homes , that is on 2 of 4 sides( the 2 adjacent sides, the back and across the street)
2. House must have 2 full bathrooms above ground
3. House should have 2,500??square feet
4 House should have a full kitchen, living room, dining room or family room and 3 bedrooms , all rooms being of reasonable size , above ground with windows
5. Owners, landlords and rental agencies asking for this special use permit, must reveal the names of the rental residents to the city in each of all other rental properties they are associated with in the city and must agree to co-operate with city officials to enforce the 3 person rule in the other rental properties they are associated with.
The off street parking, the point that houses must meet these criteria based on how it existed in Jan 2008 and other details are to be added
Overall, I think we have to have confidence in our planning commission members to interpret reasonable guidelines. Each member will define reasonable in a way that does not scare the homeowners on a given a street and which allows us to try this out in a small step by step process. This gives us the best chance of retaining a homeowner occupied atmosphere in our neighborhoods, and increases the number of good citizen student neighbors in an appropriate size house.
In summary, we need to go in steps such that after 2 or 3 years there is a required review at which time the program is evaluated by city council. At that time city council must vote to either continue , expand or terminate. This evaluation will depend on steps taken by the College, the city with the residents and the evaluation of the program itself.
Bringing more students into our neighborhoods will not make this any better. It seems we are becoming the dormitories for the college with people who have no respect for our homes, streets and the residents. The future does not look good for us and if changes cannot be made to help our neighborhoods we will lose them and they will become slums for rentals. Hopefully the college and city council can make some changes to prevent this from happening. Thank you.
P.S. Perhaps your can work out some rule for the number of students renting a duplex house. We will have 5 next door soon, last year 6, all with cars and visitors everyday. This is too much traffic congestion for our street.
Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2009 13:16:48 -0400
Subject: Public comment on housing near William and Mary
As both a student at William and Mary and a full time resident of Williamsburg, it has been fascinating to watch the issues surrounding the three person housing rule unfold. Of particular interest are the issues that are repeatedly brought up that seem to have little bearing on the matter or are easily resolved.
First, issues that keep coming up: Noise/nuisance and parking. The first problem - partying, garbage, noise and the like has little bearing on how many people live in a house. Unless the goal is to ban people from having guests in their own homes (or ban students from living off campus at all), there is no point in discussing these issues in this context. We already have a system in place to deal with these issues - city ordinances and the police department. Perhaps new, stricter laws need to be passed - but these are not issues of zoning, occupancy, or land use.
Furthermore, parking is also, largely, an over exaggerated issue - and one that could easily be solved. The average student moves into the neighborhoods immediately surrounding campus precisely so they don't have to drive to class. I live less than a block from campus and know many other students that do as well. I have a car, sure - and know other people who live on and off campus that do as well - but just as many people don't have cars that day. As such, the number of off street parking spaces seems like a useless criteria for deciding how many people should be allowed to live in a home. If an orthodox family of four rents a home (two parents, two children), no one finds it unusual if they only own 1 or 2 cars and only need/use 1 or 2 parking spaces. Nor are they viewed as some form of "crowding".
Even if parking is such a problem, there is an easy solution. There are numerous lots and garages in and around the college, Merchant Square, etc that could be put to better social and economic use if monthly parking were allowed during the off season. As it stands now, the garage off Prince George St. and the lots by merchant's square are mostly empty all winter Why not rent those spaces out? Most of these garages are within 10 minutes walk of most of the homes near the college. Obviously, this could either just be for the off season, or during the tourist season the monthly prices could be significantly higher to discourage people from taking up parking resources needed for tourism. Frankly, I was shocked when I first moved here and found out that overnight parking and long term parking weren't allowed at all at most of the city's garages. It seems like an outrageous waste of both resources and potential income for the city.
As a final thought, I'd like to point out that students are not entirely the underlying cause of many of the housing related problems in the city. There are legal limitations on land use, new construction, density, number of dwellings per acre, types of construction, etc. And yet, both Williamsburg and the College presumably have a long term goal for growth of one sort or another. Inevitably, the inherent difference between these two prerogatives will only lead to more problems. Perhaps it is time for the city to rethink it's laws. As long as there is a shortage of housing, people will continue to do what they have to do to live in the city, simply because the city core, the area near colonial Williamsburg and the College, is highly desirable. They'll live in motels, they'll live in peoples basements, and they will break the law if they have an economic incentive to do so. At heart, this is really an argument about density and about how urban Williamsburg should become. Why not embrace new development in the city and encourage higher levels of housing density where possible and appropriate, rather than attempting to stifle it outright?
309 Cary Street.
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2009 18:08:12 EDT
Subject: Rental housing near the college
Dear Focus members,
Having attended last week's meeting, I would like to thank the focus group members for giving their time and energy for discussions on rental housing near the college. As mentioned, I am both a homeowner and landlord on Griffin Ave. I was also a tenant living outside a large Air Base in Germany from '97-'07. Thus, I know how the negative actions (particularly not adhering to local customs) of a small percentage can impact the overall group and create tensions.
Even though I believe students add to our neighborhoods with their youth, activity, vitality and energy, I'm not immune to noisy parties/music, excess cars and trash (particularly beer cans strewn up the street). I attribute issues between renters/homeowners more to the personalities involved instead of necessarily the number occupying the house. Three very social tenants in a 3, 4 or 5 BR house may entertain more than 5 introverted or service-minded individuals living in a 5 BR house.
With tenants in 9 out of 13 houses on my end of Griffin, I've seen all varieties. In the same way, I don't think one can categorize a house strictly by square feet or number of BR's to determine the number of occupants. In some instances 1200 sf may be adequate but in other cases, not. Since all rental properties have to be registered with the city, is it possible for a check-list/matrix to determine occupancy taking into account the above but also parking availability, number of bathrooms, size of kitchen, etc?
Also, with the registered landlord list, could the "good neighbor" form mentioned in the meeting be provided for inclusion in the lease? And/or when tenants register their cars for a residence parking pass? It wouldn't cover everyone, but it might help spread the expectations for (student) tenants. Personally, I think landlords need to be more involved and know their tenants to help instill pride in their temporary home.
The city fall street picnic is a great way to meet members of the city council and neighbors, and hopefully get off to a good start at the beginning of each year. Perhaps this could be used in conjunction with a "community coalition" to meet residents, learn the landlords' information, relay expectations for quiet time, share phone numbers, etc. Broken down into small neighborhoods, it wouldn't be too overwhelming for any group (similar to neighborhood watches).
I'll look forward to suggestions, proposals and perhaps pilot programs as a result of your meetings hoping there will be a trial period before changing codes, establishment of penalties, etc and with an emphasis on ideas to promote cooperation. Please count me in if volunteers are needed.
408 Griffin Ave.
Date: 3/12/2009 10:33 PM
During the same meeting, a question was raised about the W&M code of conduct and Honor Code and whether or not lying about the number of people residing in a particular rental property was a violation of the W&M Code of Conduct or Honor Code. The discussion with College Representatives left the impression that the Code of Conduct and Honor Code applied to conduct on Campus property, but not necessarily to conduct off campus.
During the public comment portion of the March 12, 2009 Focus Group Meeting, I mentioned a cursory comparison of the Code of Conduct and Honor Code information taken the CNU and W&M student handbooks. I've included that information below.
As the group breaks down into smaller working groups to look at various schools/localities for "best practices," I'd recommend including a review the Code of Conduct and Honor Code at those Colleges or Universities, as well.
Christopher Newport University Student Handbook 2008-2009
STUDENT CODE OF CONDUCT
A. Abusive, Disorderly or Obscene Conduct
Christopher Newport University Vision 2010: Note one of the University’s Goals is
BY COMPARISON (cursory)
|Sent: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:47 AM
Subject: Compliance with the Zoning Code
The City of Williamsburg Zoning Code applicable to Matoaka Court, a street near the College with a high number of student rentals, includes in its Statement of Intent the following sentences: “This district is established as a single-family residential area with low population density. The regulations for this district are designed to stabilize and protect the essential characteristics of the land and to promote and encourage a suitable environment for family life.”
Creating an environment in which several unrelated students may occupy a very substantial percentage of single-family residences in a neighborhood of 33 homes (the number of residences on Matoaka Court of which approximately nine or ten are currently student rentals) is not in compliance with the intent of the zoning code because it does not promote or encourage a suitable environment for family life in the traditional sense. Increasing the number of allowed non-related occupants from three to four would almost certainly put (at least) four students in homes that now are limited to three. It would encourage other owners who now rent to families to rent to students because of the ability to charge substantially more rent to four students than to one family. (To assume that landlords will charge less per student if they rent to four rather than three is naïve.) Finally, it may encourage owners who now occupy their homes to sell and move elsewhere or to move elsewhere and convert their homes to student rentals. Simply stated, implementing the “four person rule” would reduce the number of residences occupied by traditional families (three or four students living together cannot realistically be called a “family” in the traditional sense). It would further serve to destabilize and change the characteristics of the land and reduce its suitability for traditional family life.
None of this is in conformance with the intent of the Zoning Code or in the best interest of community. How will compliance with the intent of the City’s Zoning Code be addressed in the FG discussions?
John W. Hill
Date: 3/5/2009 11:29 AM
Thank you for considering the following:
|Received on: 2.20.09
304 Watson Drive
City of Williamsburg
With regard to the policy of residents in rental housing in Williamsburg, I have to draw on my own experience living in a college town as a student. I understand that the laws / policies are made to protect the interests of the city, but generalizations of the town about the students tend to be overreaching. As a college student living with 2-3 other women, we were good citizens. We parked where we were supposed to, never let gatherings get out of control, kept our apartment clean, picked up litter, etc. We would have lived in a house, but there were similar policies there prevented us from finding an affordable one.
No matter what the outcome, please keep in mind that all college students are not the same. Many of them will do just as well whether there are 3 residents or 4 residents. And on the same note, some of them won't. I realize this is one of the challenges of governing a college town, but I ask for some even handed consideration for those college students whose financial status will be affected -- splitting the rent 4 ways is cheaper than 3!
Natalie Miller Moore
BGSU Class of '99
Received on: 02.26.09
There’s also guidelines in the City zoning code on the number of rental bedrooms in singlefamily detached dwellings to roomers and visitors, which I’ve copied below. My question has to do with properties that are purchased (by parents, who don’t reside there and have a different address for tax purposes) for their child/student to live in while attending school, and have other students living there as well. I am aware of one situation like this in my neighborhood, where there are generally four cars parked near the home on a regular basis. Based on the below information, which zoning code would apply here, the 3-unrelated person rule, or special use permit required for rental of more than one roomer?
Something to be aware of and consider, since this is probably another zoning area that may be difficult to enforce.
Sec. 21-605. Rental of bedrooms in single-family detached dwellings to roomers and visitors.
(a) Intent. These regulations are established to allow the rental of bedrooms to roomers and visitors in single-family detached dwellings while at the same time preserving the residential character of the neighborhoods in which the dwellings are located. To these ends, bedroom rentals are limited to owner-occupied dwellings. Rentals to roomers, being largely residential in character, are allowed throughout residential districts; rentals to visitors, being more commercial in character, are allowed only along specified major streets to avoid bringing increased traffic and congestion by nonresidents into residential districts. In addition, rentals to visitors are limited to a minority of the single-family detached dwellings on the specified streets, with greater restrictions placed on the minor corridors, in order to ensure that all of the corridors maintain their residential character.
(b) Owner-occupied single-family detached dwelling defined.
(1) For the purpose of this section, a single-family detached dwelling shall be deemed "owner-occupied" only so long as it is regularly occupied by:
a. An adult individual who owns at least a 50 percent undivided fee simple interest in such dwelling and the lot upon which it is located and regularly occupies said dwelling as his or her principal place of residence; or
b. The stockholders of at least 51 percent of the individual outstanding voting stock of a corporation, chartered in the Commonwealth of Virginia, or the members of a limited liability company chartered in the Commonwealth of Virginia, who own the controlling interest therein, which corporation or limited liability company owns full fee simple title to the dwelling and the lot on which it is located.
(2) Ownership shall be established as follows:
a. Record ownership of fee simple title shall be certified by an attorney-at-law duly licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and shall be based upon examination of the land records in the Clerk's Office for the Circuit Court of the City of Williamsburg and County of James City made not earlier than the day before delivery of the certification to the zoning administrator. Such certification shall be in form acceptable to the city attorney.
b. The identity of stockholders of a corporation and members of a limited liability company shall be established by affidavit of all stockholders or members in form satisfactory to the city attorney.
Such affidavit shall state that said stockholders of the majority interest of the corporation, or the majority of the members of the limited liability company, regularly occupy the dwelling as their primary residence.
c. On the first business day of each January following the issuance of the special exception, the wnership and occupancy of the dwelling and lot, if unchanged, shall be established as follows:
1. In the case of individual ownership, by affidavit of the owner or owners originally identified in the attorney's title certification furnished in connection with the permit application;
2. In the case of corporate ownership, the corporation's continued full fee simple ownership and the identity of the controlling stockholders shall be established by the affidavit of the president of the corporation and the continued occupancy of the dwelling and lot as the principal residence of the controlling stockholders shall be established by their affidavits; or
3. In the case of ownership by a limited liability company, the company's continued ownership of full fee simple ownership, the fact that the members previously identified as owning control of the limited liability company continue to do so and that all of said members continue to occupy the dwelling and lot as their primary residence shall be established by their affidavits.
d. If a change in fee simple ownership of the dwelling and lot has occurred since the last annual certification, than [then] the current fee simple ownership shall again be established by certificate of a duly licensed attorney-at-law based upon examination of the land records in the Clerk's Office of the Circuit Court for the City of Williamsburg and the County of James City. In such case, the identity of controlling stockholders, in the case of a corporation or controlling members, in the case of limited liability company and the facts regarding occupancy shall be established by affidavits as provided in section 21-605(b)(2)c. above.
e. Should ownership, control or occupancy of a dwelling for which a special exception has been issued at any time fail to meet the requirements of this section 21-605(b), and if compliance has not been achieved within 60 days of the zoning administrator's notice of noncompliance, then the special exception shall become null and void.
(c) Rental of one bedroom to one roomer. The rental of one bedroom to one roomer shall be allowed by right, subject to the following:
(1) Rentals shall be limited to owner-occupied single-family detached dwellings.
(2) The furnishing of meals for compensation to such rental occupant by a member of the family is also permitted.
(3) No additional off-street parking shall be required.
(4) Applicable provisions of the Uniform Statewide Building Code, and all other applicable laws and regulations, shall be met.
(1) Rentals shall be limited to owner-occupied single-family detached dwellings.
(2) No more than two bedrooms in the principal dwelling may be rented to roomers.
(3) No persons other than members of the immediate family residing on the premises shall be involved in the rental of the permitted bedroom(s).
(4) The furnishing of meals for compensation to permitted occupants by a member of the family is also permitted.
(5) No more than two roomers shall occupy a bedroom at the same time, unless otherwise reduced by the requirements of the Uniform Statewide Building Code and all other applicable laws and regulations.