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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

Students attend council meeting, want fair treatment

As the heat of political tension began to rise, the echo of “Beat the Hell Outta the Housing Ordinance!” resonated just outside the meeting chambers of the College Station City Council.
With the possible institution of a contentious housing ordinance threatening to limit the number of unrelated individuals living together, a plethora of concerned students attended the council’s March 27 proposal workshop hoping to hear that alternative measures had been found to insure fair treatment for all College Station residents.
The workshop began with the presentation of the report put together by the city’s staff that evaluated the present policy rational governing community relations and then recommended specific policy initiatives to help elevate the tension between permanent residents and students.
Robert Cowell, the director of planning and development services, presented the report’s strategies and actions on behalf of the city citing that the solution will only come with the full engagement of all stakeholders – students, landlords and permanent residents alike.
“This is not just a city solution,” Cowell said. “For listed accountability for code enforcement, education for stakeholders and the need for additional enforcement tools, fully rely upon the willingness of all residents to communicate with one another to strengthen the community.”
Actions recommended by the city staff included promoting home ownership, intensive neighborhood code enforcement and official rental registration for all leases. The report was shared as the opening of the workshop, to insure that the city’s recommendations where at the forefront of the council members minds as they prepared to finally confront the neighborhood integrity issues.
Cowell concluded the city’s report with “Aggieland Solutions,” strategies inspired by the student government’s proposal that was crafted as an alternative to the proposed idea of an ordinance which would limit the number of un-related individuals in one residence.
To launch discussion to the council members and the rest of the chambers, Mayor Ben White opened with an address to the crowd reminding them of the special community we share in College Station, and the respect that is inherently understood within it.
“College Station [is] a community of citizens, but with that little something extra – a University that is known for its tradition, conservative values and friendly nature.”
White said citizens must assume the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with those benefits, which include cooperative problem solving when community tension arises. Speaking straight to the housing ordinance proposal, White said, “We must seek creative ways to deal with not just this issue, but those of the future.”
Council members John Crompton and James Massey began the open discussion with questions towards the city’s recommended actions and strategies. Their questions revealed that many of the issues brought up by residents could be remedied if the city’s departments where simply organized differently and that many of the recommendations are only practical if a rental registration is put into place.
A rental registration would mean all residents included on a lease would have to register their contact information, thus creating a database that would allow everyone to know who lives in each residence. In 2005, College Station had a rental registration and according to the council members present who put an end to it, the mandatory registration proved to be inefficient and too time consuming.
Speaker of the Student Senate Tyler Koch was the first to address the council from the crowd. Koch quickly ran through Powerpoint slides highlighting the student proposal, “Living with Aggies.”
“The student proposal creates a win-win situation for everyone,” said Koch, “the students win more responsibility within off-campus living and the rest of the neighborhood wins more inclusive cooperation on student-renter issues.”
Darrek Ferrell, chair of external affairs for student senate, spoke to the council saying, “A common theme that we have dealt with throughout this entire process has been the utilization of the right tool.”
Speaking to Massey, Ferrell said, “In November you said that we shouldn’t buy the nails without having a plan for the house. The consultant in the ‘stakeholders’ meeting said that we need to add tools to our toolbox in order to better deal with this issue. Each of these alternatives that Tyler has offered to you has one thing in common – they are constructive.”
Offering an analogy to coincide with Massey’s construction discourse, Ferrell said. “Whether it’s encouraging responsibility, increasing communication or others, our alternatives are all constructive.”
“The housing ordinance, the reason most people are here today, is like a wedge. The problem is that a wedge is destructive tool,” said Ferrell. “Like a wedge, the housing ordinance is not the right tool for the job.”
College Park resident Jerry Cooper spoke next and made it clear that the situation at hand was not resident versus student. He sasid, “Students are good to be around, for the most part.”
Cooper said he would like to see zero-tolerance with parties reinstituted, which would mean that just one call would lead to a ticket. He said ticketing is the “best way to get to these kind of people – the pocketbook.”
He was most adamant that the student solution be called “Aggies living within the community,’ not the other way around. [Students] are the ones who need to be living as neighbors.”
Student Body President Conner Prochaska, in response to Cooper’s criticism of the proposal, said, “The fact of the matter is, our proposal doesn’t blankly target students, it targets those who break the law. Unlike any housing ordinance, it addresses the problem without creating a superficial solution and a code enforcement nightmare.We have the existing codes to deal with the problems. Let’s enforce them.”
Massey listed the strategies he was in favor of: universal rental registration with a fee, the need for a neighborhood relations department within the city and a greater emphasis on education to remedy not physical code violations but behavioral.
He then asked the students, “Why do you want to live with old folks like us?” Massey suggested replicating the characteristics of family neighborhoods to student-only neighborhoods. Crompton followed with a similar set of strategies, yet surprised the chambers when he said, “I was elected on the premise of instituting a ‘two-unrelated ordinance’ and now I see that that is not the best solution to deal with this issue.”
Councilman Ron Gay led with explaining that from his position, it is the job of the council to create a community comfortable enough to appeal to all people as a community worthy of permanent residence. Gay said that he was extremely in favor of the student proposal as he hopes the students will be the next generation of College Station residents.
Also in favor of the student proposal was Councilwoman Lynn McIlhaney, who said, “Students want to live in College Station, and we should provide that place to live with a community that’s suitable for all citizens.”
“I commend the students on a job well done.Their proposal is definitely headed in the right direction towards neighborhood integrity,” said councilman Chris Scotti, in full support of the student proposal.
The student crowd let out a sigh of relief through the chambers as the notion of a housing ordinance seemed to be dropped from council conversation.
“We are not done,” Koch said. “This was step one of a two-step process. We still have to turn out the student vote.”
City elections are held in the second week of May, with early voting beginning at the end of this month.

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