Saturday, December 01, 2007

On The Ball

This post is an issue about “the issue.”

I try to keep up with local events, reading different sources. Sometimes coverage in Cardinal Points, the student newspaper at SUNY-Plattsburgh, is more complete than the Press-Republican.

In the latest CP, 11/30/07, there’s an article on page A3 headlined “St. John’s student housing plans stalled.” It deals with the controversy over the student housing project being promoted by the United Group of Troy. The new complex would house around 400 students.

As explained in a previous post (“Combat Zone: Peace Or Profit?”), Center City residents want a change in the zoning regulations to alleviate the concentration of so many college students in their neighborhood. This change would limit 3, not 4, unrelated individuals to an apartment unit.

In the CP article John Ball, Chief Operating Officer for United Group, claims that such a change could kill his company’s plans. For the project to be profitable, each suite needs four renters.

Ball contends that the new student housing wouldn’t create new problems; it would solve an old one by offering student housing of a higher quality.

At one point in the article it’s stated that Ball finds the entire process regarding the proposed zoning ordinance to be foreign, a mystery. He says that when United Group approached other cities with housing projects, the issue was never brought up.

If he means by “the issue” the number of students per suite, then in that sense Ball is right as far I can tell from my research. But if he means concern about the total number of students or talk about zoning changes, then there’s more to the story, at least in Oswego.

A previous post, "United Against United Group In Oswego,” detailed how the city of Oswego killed a student housing plan that had been pushed by Ball’s company. Citizens didn’t want a high concentration of students – 300 to 400 - in their neighborhood.

There was talk of rezoning to keep the project out of Oswego. In the end the owner of the property for the proposed site agreed to a deed restriction so his land couldn’t be used for high-density housing, effectively blocking the United Group project. The owner had a choice of a deed restriction or face the possibility of being rezoned.

Obviously United Group had encountered zoning issues in Oswego and also heard complaints from some Oswegonians about having a high concentration of students in one area.

And John Ball should know about all of this since he traveled to Oswego to pitch the project, discussing the details in a public forum with city residents.

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