Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CONTRIBUTOR: The Zoning Change F & M is Actually Proposing

I was at the City Council committee meeting where this proposal was first introduced. The newspaper has been doing a TERRIBLE job of explaining this proposal to the public.

F&M does indeed want to require ALL students to live on campus. Period. F&M has had far too many issues with students living in apartments that don't meet City housing codes, and the consequences of students living out of the control of the college.

The problem is, it will take F&M AT LEAST ten years to build new dormitories AND renovate older dormitories to meet current housing standards. F&M wants to deal with these issues long before then.

The plan is basically this: F&M's developer will purchase and RENOVATE enough properties that currently house students to provide all of F&M's overflow housing needs. These will not only be brought up to City housing codes, but also to F&M's much stricter standards. In exchange, F&M has signed a ten-year lease with their developer, guaranteeing him a return on his investment. As the students are gradually transitioned into new on-campus housing, the developer will be free to sell off these renovated properties one at a time, hopefully at a good profit since the properties will be improved and well-maintained.

Off-campus students will be REQUIRED to lease housing from F&M; they will not be permitted to live under their own arrangements, unless they can prove they have family within commuting distance. As F&M brings more on-campus housing online, these lease arrangements will be phased out.

This zoning change would also apply to any other institution of higher learning that wants to create a similar program. LGH, the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, and the Lancaster Theological Seminary would all be able to do the same thing F&M does.

The advantages of this plan are many, including (but not limited to):

- NO taxpayer money is involved, these properties will pay real estate taxes based on their IMPROVED value.

- Students will no longer be allowed to live anywhere that is not controlled by F&M.

- Current privately-owned student housing will be upgraded, resulting in higher real estate values for the surrounding area.

- When the renovated buildings are sold on the open market, they will bring an improved quality of apartment to the NW section of Lancaster. Some may even be converted back to single-family houses by the developer.

Plus, the developer has promised that NO current single-family dwellings would be turned into apartments.