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Council Discusses Moving Students Out of Town Center

During a scheduled West Chester Borough Council workshop session, Council discussed with residents and property owners the prospect of eliminating student housing from downtown West Chester.

With a classroom’s-worth of college students in attendance, Tuesday night’s Borough Council Workshop turned to where many of those students may and may not be permitted to live in the near future.

Council decided Tuesday in the West Chester Borough Council Chambers to move to discussion an ordinance that would eliminate student housing as a permitted use in the West Chester Town Center zoning district. Further discussions of the ordinance will take place Wednesday.

The ordinance, Council stated, would be part of an attempt to move more established citizens into the apartments surrounding the downtown shops. In turn, Council predicted the new tenants would be more likely to spend money in the shops and restaurants not targeted to the student population.

The issue is not one of discriminating against students, Council argued. Rather, Council hoped to create a more suitable student population density.

While many of the Council members seemed to favor the idea, the proposed ordinance was not without its detractors.

Tony Stancato, a realtor and life-long West Chester resident, argued his business would take a large hit if the ordinance passed.

“I warn you,” Stancato said to Council, “This is a mistake.”

Stancato’s sentiments were echoed by resident and apartment renter Stan Zukin.

In a filibuster-esque address to Council, Zukin argued he and other apartment owners were asked by Council 11 years ago to cater to the student population in the same downtown areas now under duress. Now, after pouring money into those units, Zukin argued he and other owners are at stake to lose out on those same previous investments.

Zukin also worried an ordinance of such style would send a precedent to the students that they are not wanted in town.

“Don’t bite the hand that is feeding the taxes to our wonderful town,” Zukin said.

Still, Council and many members in attendance felt the ordinance would greatly benefit the economy and maturity of downtown West Chester.

“There’s a need to raise the income level of people living downtown,” resident Joe Norley said, before adding, “We need to restore sanity to downtown.”

Stancato quickly retorted.

“The problem is not because my people walk up the stairs at 2 am, it’s because they are walking up Walnut Street from the bars,” he said.

Resident and former Council member Jim Jones told Council many property values grandfathered in as student housing eligible climbed nearly 20 percent 11 years ago after the decision to move students into the downtown area passed.

Jones too agreed now may be the time, however, to attempt to move residents with expendable income downtown.

In the end, Council agreed much more discussion is in order before any decision will be made. Zukin requested from Council a meeting with both sides and their lawyers before any decisions are made.

Discussions will resume Wednesday during the scheduled Borough Council meeting.

Devon Bennett February 15, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I was one of the students at this meeting last night and was enraged by this idea. Especially when councilmen Norley's response to why is was " we had our fill" then went on to compare us to "strip clubs and porn." A lot of people who are partying and making noise at two in the morning aren't just West Chester students they are from Drexel and Villanova moving students out wont change anything. The bars aren't going anywhere. Even as Norley's dad said Mr. Zukin and others are just there because they're worried about his pocket, he's wrong like normal. This ordinance would help him because of the security despotism students put down. This was an insult to students and the people of West Chester even when the mayor spoke i was upset, because at September's President's Breakfast Club with organization presidents and the university president she commended the students on the work we do and how we brought life back to West Chester. Overall, this is discrimination and it would cause the university to expand and if it does the bars will only get more people and places like Walnut St will be somewhere else bothering complying residents.
Joe Norley February 15, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Devon, you statements are clearly inaccurate and do not reflect the record. I appreciate you not make excuses for WCU students as it is documented that 50% of all citations go to WCU students and even more to their friends. Nobody is taking anything away from the accomplishments of some students but clearly residents resent the inconsiderate behavior of drunk students late at night. One day you may grow up and feel the same way. It is the student behavior that is an insult to West Chester, its residents and the University. Basically it is clear you ahve no idea what you are talking about.
citizenknow February 16, 2012 at 12:29 AM
There was an article just last week about the high quality of life crimes in the student section of town. By disallowing students in the town center, you just increase the density of other parts and the quality of life crimes only increase elsewhere. This is not the answer to the problem. If you want to increase the quality of residents, find a way to have rents raised in town center, perhaps higher student rental permit prices or something of that nature.
Devon Bennett February 16, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Mr. Norley I think you misunderstood where I was coming from. Some of the points last night were very valid. This all comes down to west chester being a dry campus. College kids drink that's the bottom line, college kids come here because they like the small town feal that comes with it. The university needs to be part "wet" to allow the higher concentration of older students who live down there to participate in what they legally can do. With that they can patrol south more and give the students the chance to show their responsibility. Moving them out may help but it will not solve the downtown issue that we have in west chester. Because between the bars and early reputation west chester had as a party school won't go anywhere. Though the dismissal or 1 Greek society who did alot of good yet partied alot might help with that. My wish is that the good students don't get punished for what the idiots do.
Joe Norley February 16, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Devon, thank you for your measured comments. The suggested ordinance does only one thing and that is freeze the student population at current levels in the downtown. Council, I believe in their wisdom, is simply trying to stabilize the downtown in an effort to create an environment that is beneficial to all. Residents and taxpayers are not interested in West Chester, the watering hole, but West Chester the quaint historic town that provides a balanced mix that accommodates everyone. I don't see a problem with this and I think students should support this measure as a way to create a better West Chester. I understand how you can feel reactive toward this measure but I hope you'll consider what I have said.

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