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City hears complaints

City officials, students and residents voiced concerns at last night’s city council meeting regarding the city zoning ordinance that prohibits units in the R1 and R2 districts from housing over three unrelated people.

The ordinance, enacted January 6, 1975, has only recently been enforced by the city. The city has investigated 900 cases of over-occupancy since 1995, and an increasing number of cases caused officials to debate a solution this summer.

“Due to significant increases in enrollment at BGSU, large increases in the cost of education everywhere and high rent accommodations with a tighter economic situation for the typical college student, we believe that the over-occupancy of housing in R1 and R2 zones has been on the rise, and now requires the city to become more proactive in addressing the University,” Mayor John Quinn said.

So far 35 citations have been issued, and all students are being represented by Student Legal Services. The prosecutor’s office will allow any other students and landlords in violation until December 31 to rectify the situation with no citations.

Quinn also explained that individuals who have rented in violation of the law are culpable, as are the landlords who have rented to these individuals. He believes the University is culpable for having made housing decisions without considering the effects on the city. Quinn expressed concern over President Sidney Ribeau’s response to his explanation of the ordinance at last week’s USG meeting.

“The remarks he chose to make to that audience were inflammatory and promoted division among the parting positions there,” Quinn said. “I was, to put it mildly, disappointed and concerned that a person of his stature and influence would behave, as I consider it, so unwisely and ill-advisedly.”

Resident and former University faculty member Anissa Ward said her property value has decreased with more student housing. She also explained that some student behavior bothers her.

Ward described one incident in which her daughter was exposed to this behavior.

“A few years ago my daughter who was then 15-years-old was walking down Court Street in our city, and was treated to a young man urinating out of his upstairs window aiming at my daughter and her friends as they walked by,” Ward said. “I do think that this type of thing increases when we have a larger number of people living in a small residence than that residence is intended for.”

Not everyone in attendance agreed with Quinn’s statements, and USG president Alex Wright stated the concerns students have expressed to him.

Wright stated that around Sept.. 13 the Bowling Green Police Division started knocking on students doors asking how many people live there.

He stated that vehicular traffic has been a concern to the city, but students are now parking on the street so officials do not see as many cars in driveways.

“Students are scared. Good students are scared,” Wright said. “Students who have done nothing else but want to live with three or four of their friends are scared. I get calls from my friends and people I don’t know wanting to know what to do.”

Wright also said Dec. 31 is not enough time for students to find a new lease, because leases are from August to August and students are focused on school now. He also said that landlords should be held accountable for allowing additional occupants in properties.

Wright rebutted Quinn’s opinion on Ribeau’s statements, and said he thinks Ribeau was questioning how the city has handled the situation.

“I don’t believe he was trying to be inflammatory,” Wright said. “I think he was just surprised, as we were, that we didn’t know about this beforehand because we had plenty of opportunities for an open dialogue about this issue.”

At-Large USG senator Niki Messmore expressed concerns students have about the ordinance, and said situations like Ward’s are not dependant on the number of people in a residence.

“Honestly, I don’t understand how having more than three unrelated citizens seems to destroy the high quality of life the mayor wants to upholding the city of Bowling Green,” Messmore said. “While I understand that maybe some instances can occur, those instances can occur with just three or two people living together.”

Student Joyce Christopher said she believes city officials are profiling students.

“Without students this city would not be flourishing as it is,” Christopher said.

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