The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 5th

Block Party Unites Neighbors

A small neighborhood in Chapel Hill has found an effective solution to ease tensions between residents and students.

Short Street, located between Church and Pritchard streets, is an area that has had problems in the past with its student residents. To alleviate these concerns, resident Lauren Rivers, who lives on Short Street, organized a block party where both groups could come together in a friendly environment.

"We're trying to get an association together to voice concerns and appeal to student goodwill," she said.

Reports of loud parties and public urination, as well as selected incidents of physical intimidation, led various community members to take action.

To include everyone in the neighborhood, Rivers put up a banner and passed out fliers with other residents' assistance. The party was held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, and of the 50 to 60 people in attendance, at least 20 were students.

Resident Chas Gaertner said the party built community and friendliness.

Overall, many agreed the party was a success.

"Things are a lot less tense now," Rivers said.

UNC Assistant Dean of Students Don Appairius, who was invited to the party, said keeping residents and students happy is key.

"Anything positive and healthy is all good (from the University's perspective); anything that improves community, rapport and dialogue the University has a vested interest in," he said.

But the real challenge will be to keep the process going, Appairius said. Because the student population is often more transient than the residential, it will be necessary for residents to continually reinvest their energies, he said.

Plans for seasonal block parties and "get-to-know-each-other" events are in the works, Rivers said.

"This could be a blueprint for how the community could keep the dynamic of healthy community relations," Appairius said.

Other meetings were held throughout the summer at Chapel Hill Town Hall to discuss possible courses of action. Students and residents, as well as University officials and the local police, attended. Phone numbers and addresses were exchanged to establish a greater sense of community.

An important topic of conversation at these meetings was requests by students that residents bring their concerns to the students themselves instead of calling the police.

When the police are called in repeatedly, landlords might become alarmed, and evictions can result, Gaertner said.

Furthermore, there is the potential for the student attorney general to become involved if an off-campus student commits a reported crime.

Appairius said if a student displays a certain pattern of behavior off campus, there is potential for that action to re-occur on campus. This action can result in students dealing with the Honor Court.

In this respect, local police were especially helpful in teaching the community about neighborhood accountability.

The success of this plan could be influential all over Chapel Hill, Appairius said.

"It's good for the Chapel Hill community," he said.

"Everybody wins and nobody loses."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.


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