The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 4th

Congress Asks Town to Reconsider Ordinance

Speaker of Congress Tony Larson said the ordinance would make off-campus housing less available and more costly for UNC students. "It's important to understand why (the ordinance) is so tragic for student housing," he said.

The ordinance under consideration by the Town Council would limit the number of unrelated residents to two in a house and four total for a two-unit duplex.

The Congress bill's language states that town landlords likely would skirt the new restrictions by having only two out of several residents sign the lease -- a move the resolution states would place non-signing students in a "high-risk situation."

The town ordinance also would ban the future construction of duplexes and would require the closure of all duplexes within 40 years.

A ban on duplex construction would lead to higher costs and would push students and low-income families farther from campus, the Congress resolution states. It goes on to state that the ordinance would decrease the area's diversity and increase its traffic congestion.

A third component of the proposed ordinance would restrict the number of vehicles residents could park at their houses or duplexes.

Some Chapel Hill residents, including those in the Northside neighborhood -- which is home to many duplex communities -- have raised concerns about problems with trash, noise and cars caused by the influx of University students and have been supportive of the proposed ordinance.

In addition to the student objections raised Tuesday night, the ordinance has drawn fire from other area constituencies, including landlords. The council has scheduled a public hearing for Monday and a citizen workshop for Oct. 28.

Congressional leaders, including Ethics Committee Chairman and graduate student Dan Herman, asked members to participate in the hearing and to contact council members to show the student perspective on the ordinance.

In an e-mail sent to members of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation on Monday, Herman asked fellow students, faculty and administrators to sign a letter that voices student concerns to the ordinance.

The letter, signed by Herman and GPSF President Branson Page, expresses concern about the occupancy ban contained in the ordinance, specifically its effect on UNC graduate and professional students. "This provision may have a particularly severe impact on graduate and professional students," it states.

The only source of debate Tuesday was a technicality in the resolution about a law -- which is not usually enforced -- that prohibits more than four people from living in a single residence. The original resolution states, "enforcing the (four-person occupancy law) limits the affordable housing options for students."

Speaker Pro Tem Matt O'Brien said it would be dangerous for Congress to ask for laws to not be enforced. "I don't know if Congress should be asking government to not enforce laws," he said.

Larson, who introduced the bill, agreed. In an amendment, the section was struck from the resolution.

In an e-mail sent to Congress members after the meeting, O'Brien resigned from his seat, citing a move from his district. He wrote that a new speaker pro tem will be elected at the next meeting.

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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