Town versus Gown

Town versus Gown

UK Students Return and LFUCG Gets an Earful (Again)

[Elizabeth Street Neighborhood Association Members addressed City Council Aug 27. Pictured is Harck Pickett.]

Dave Cooper summarized the frustration of campus-adjacent neighborhoods on Thursday night, August 27, when he told Urban County Council members, “Let’s face it. These are satellite fraternity houses.” 

Another longtime resident spoke of growing up in the neighborhood; leaving for his doctoral work; and returning home, only to find “Couches were burning in the street approximately once a week.” Then he clarified, “there was a fire once a week,” while couches were burned, on average, “once a month.” He’s already moved once, staying within the neighborhood, adding, “It’s frustrating that I feel displaced out of my own neighborhood that I grew up in, but I feel sorry for someone that has less resources,” and isn’t able to relocate easily.

He told the Council, “This is not about students, but about the University of Kentucky…a neighbor that seems immune to almost anything you guys do.”

Kathy Pickett added that she didn’t blame the students. For example, it’s a Permit Parking neighborhood,  “so the kids park in their yards,” because they have few alternatives. She expressed further concern that now landlords appear to be paving over backyards in the Westwood Court area and turning them into parking lots to compensate.

Council Member Gorton responded that the landlords’ practices are “not a fair way to re-zone a neighborhood—by just building it into a high-density area.”

Council Member Doug Martin said his district is also facing such issues, “These structures are not being used as single family residences…These are being used as apartment buildings.”

Council Member Beard added “We have to get our arms around [this issue] before it buries us. We have to remember that the University of Kentucky is planning on adding six to eight thousand students in the next 10 years.”

Mayor Newberry told the assembled citizens, “There’s a lot of history on this issue but the end result is not good yet.” (He also asked Kathy Pickett for the addresses where landlords were preparing to pave the backyards.)

Vice Mayor Jim Gray’s tone was sterner as he referenced “trichotillomania”—(it’s an impulse disorder characterized by pulling one’s hair out).

He said, “We’re gonna have to take a page outta Newtown Pike and hold the University accountable. The University has to take ownership.” (This comment was greeted by applause.)

UK student Patrick ODowd echoed those sentiments in an online discussion shortly after LFUCG adjourned. He said, “Neighborhoods and renters will have to force change. UK simply has no interest in this matter besides allocating UKPD on party nights to these streets.”

He raised an important issue, “Since campus is dry, the frats just move the parties to frat brother houses off campus…” which equals “Less supervision and more chaos. And that will push more of the frats even more into surrounding neighborhoods.” He said,  “I think you’ll see the problem get worse before it gets better, because UK will be tearing down frat houses on campus in coming years   I have even heard of frats renting houses for the year, not living in them, and using them just for parties,” which comes as no surprise to residents of campus-adjacent neighborhoods.

Council Member Gorton proposed to add a timeline to the discussion, but Council Member Feigel asked that the Mayor shut down the discussion as a “point of order,” arguing that it amounted to debating a non-agenda item.

The meeting was adjourned before Council Members Gorton and Lawless were able to propose a timeline on existing or new ordinances that could address this issue, much of which falls under Infill and Redevelopment (but also Town-Gown, code enforcement, and numerous others).

In the online discussion that followed (for several days), it was also suggested that “trichotillomania” might not have the same bumper sticker potential for Vice Mayor Gray as “hoodwinked.”