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Separation of students and residents is a town and gown affair

DCN Correspondent

Recent clashes between residential and academic communities in the city of Duluth have created an environment of tension that is not uncommon in cities which host universities.

“It’s an issue of town and gown,? said Adam Pine, Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at UMD.

Town and gown, a term used in literature of urban studies, refers to the separation of non-academic (town) community and university (gown) community that exists in cities with universities.

Duluth City Council member Todd Fedora said concerns about student renters have been present for some time.

Such concerns came to public light last year when a group of homeowners from neighborhoods surrounding UMD and St. Scholastica voiced their problems with student renters in their neighborhoods. This group, called Campus Neighbors, prompted the much debated 300-foot ordinance passed by the city council.

The 300-foot ordinance limits the number of rental permits allowed for neighborhoods surrounding the campuses. Such neighborhoods were deemed as “protection zones? by the city council.

Supporters of the ordinance have claimed that it will keep a fair balance between home ownership and rental properties in these neighborhoods.

However, Pine believes “there is no perfect balance.?

Balancing of these property types implies concern for property values. The ordinance may be limiting property values if rental options are eliminated. Pine said keeping students out of the neighborhoods could raise homeowners’ property value, but it could diminish rental values.

“An ordinance like [the 300-foot rule] does not plan for [the future] at all,? Pine said. Planning for the future would include looking at the demand for student housing.

A City of Duluth Community Development Housing Indicator report, revised in May 2008, indicated a sharp rise in applications for rental permits after the passing of the 300-foot ordinance. That combined with the fact that the Community Development report estimates over 10,000 students live in off-campus apartments or single-family homes demonstrates there is a demand for student housing.

The city council has considered the need for student housing. “There was talk of looking at neighborhoods and applying a student housing overlay,? Fedora said.

However, the city currently does not employ a planning director so there has been no action taken. Fedora said when a planning director is hired one of his first priorities will be to look into student housing overlays.

Fedora believes some students just don’t want to live in larger student developments and desire the neighborhood atmosphere that currently surrounds the campuses located in Duluth.

Although talk of student housing by the council has fallen through, some additional measures have been taken to combat the behavioral issues the 300-foot ordinance fails to address.

Fedora mentioned other ordinances the council has passed since September. The “social host ordinance? and the “three strikes ordinance? penalize problem renters and landlords respectively.


Is the 300 fot rule still in existence today?