voted 4-2 Wednesday night to move forward with a recommendation that would eliminate new student housing from the town center.
“The idea is to promote a different culture in the downtown,” said council member Stephen Shinn. “This starts the process.”
The recommendation would prevent property owners from adding additional rental units aimed at students with the hope of attracting a more “mature” resident to the borough’s chief financial district.
“We can no longer foster an environment that shuts down our galleries, our high-end retail or our high-end restaurants,” said council member Jordan Norley. “If we continue down the current path all the demand will be student driven, and that’s not what West Chester is all about.”
Several members of council said that they respected the students, but they also said that the students shouldn’t be allowed to “saturate” the town center. According to them, that could lead to the same problems that have affected the southeastern quadrant of the borough.
“I’m afraid that the tide has turned far enough that we can’t bring it back,” said council president Holly Brown. “We’re not a college town. We’re a resident town that happens to have a college. Student housing should be the university’s problem, not ours.”
West Chester student Yheralis Lantigua disagreed with the council’s assumptions about students.
“You’re hurting the majority of students for the actions of a minority,” Lantigua said. “West Chester is not just a borough to me; it’s my second home.”
Lantigua added, “A lot of students come to West Chester University for that small town feel you’re all talking about. Students like that atmosphere.”
Council member John Manion said that students are the bread and butter of the town, and that a lot of them do wonderful work.
“They’re not all bad,” Manion said. “I say let’s sit and have a dialogue with the university, with the property owners, a dialogue where all the stakeholders come to the table.”
Brown who owns a retail store in the town center said that the atmosphere in the neighborhood has changed in the last decade, and that it has affected her business.
“I have to close early on Fridays,” Brown said. “I have customers who say they don’t like to come into town at night. The atmosphere isn’t what it was. The younger demographic affects my business.”
Chuck Christy and John Mainon voted against the recommendation. Tom Paxson was absent.
From here, an ordinance will be drawn up by the borough’s solicitor and will probably be voted on next month. If passed, the ordinance would then become law.