ALLEGANY, NY – From noise complaints to full-out battles, tensions between locals and university students seem to be common around the world.
Although there have not been actual battles in the Village of Allegany, it can feel as though the local residents and St. Bonaventure University students are pitted against one another.
Mayor Greg Pearl has witnessed this divide and wants to create a dialogue between students and local residents.
On Sept. 9, the Village Board of Trustees conducted a public hearing to discuss the possibility of a six-month moratorium restricting the conversion of single-family homes into multi-family homes. Multi-family homes are popular among students and are sometimes labeled as “party houses.”
After the public hearing, the Village Board of Trustees put that moratorium in place in order to have time to review multi-family housing zoning laws in the village.
Pearl clarified the current status of the moratorium and what the next steps are.
"The moratorium is still in place,” Pearl said. “There is no public hearing scheduled yet because our committee is still reviewing everything. We do have a committee that is meeting comprised of two planning board members, two zoning board members, and two village trustees. After that, if everything goes as planned, we will have public hearing and lift the moratorium."
Pearl explained that the end goal is not to prohibit multi-family homes, but instead to come up with a mutually beneficial process.
“Our goal is not to stop people from investing and renting in the village," Pearl said. "You can’t stand in the way of this stuff. The moratorium is just in place to put something together to prevent someone from coming in, buying a property and shoving 12 people into a house. Where are they going to park? Is the house sandwiched between two single family homes? Will it lead to more noise complaints? The goal is that the board can come up with answers that will benefit students and permanent residents.”
Pearl believes that the best way to solve this issue is to create a sense of community between the landlords, residents and students living in the Village of Allegany.
“The tenants need to remember to give the respect that they were raised with," Pearl said. "We have to remember what its like to be their age. This isn’t about stopping one side or another. We need to work together. It’s something that we can all work together on.”
Pearl explained the first steps that have been taken in fostering this relationship. He has met with Tom Buttafaro, director of board, community and government relations at St. Bonaventure University. The next steps will be to meet with St. Bonaventure student government and, later on, to meet with members of the multi-family homes.
“We want to get their perspective. We see things one way,” Pearl said. “We want to see how they are seeing things. What’s their perspective? How would they approach the issue?”
St. Bonaventure University student Alex Lombard is a resident of a multi-family home on South Seventh Street. He has been following the news of the moratorium and feels that the measure is not necessary.
“I understand the mayor's goal in trying to clean up the town a little, but I also don’t think that we trash the town that badly as students,” Lombard said. “I think we bring in a huge part of the local economy, and I think this could deprive other people besides college students the opportunity to find a better place to live. I don’t agree with it overall, but I do understand the thought process.”
Although many locals support the idea of improving the municipality's relationship with students living off campus, few feel that the moratorium is the most practical course of action.
Morgan Ayers, owner of M’organic Market at 124 W. Main St., agrees that an open discussion would help improve conditions and that putting a hold on more multi- family homes is not the right decision.
“I guess it needs to be a common courtesy discussion rather than a complete hold on things," Ayers said. “The students rent the houses and shop around town and it allows a circulation of money to go around town.”
East Union Street resident Jim Walton lives between two houses that are rented by St. Bonaventure University students and said he is looking forward to giving his opinion on the issue.
“I think it’s a good thing, but I don’t think it’s going to get anywhere," Walton said. "It should not be looked at as all the college kids partying and the noise. Let’s look at it from a zoning perspective. Where are the majority of the complaints coming from? Can we focus on those people and talk to them? It’s a start, and it does need to happen but I think it needs to go further. I hope there is an open meeting soon, so I can go.”
Pearl encourages members of the community to be open to improvements in the community. He noted that progress takes time and that he wants to hear from as many people as possible.
“If you think that we are moving in the wrong direction and this isn’t the right answer, then I invite you to come in and offer your time and opinions because we would love to hear it,” Pearl said.
Pearl's focus is not division;instead, it is unity among community members.
“If there is an issue, we don’t want it to be us versus them,” the mayor said. “We want to work together.”
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