2011-2012 Principal Business Items and Accomplishments
Student rental house moratorium and student rental house overlay district ordinance. In August 2011, the City of St. Paul placed a formal moratorium on the conversion of owner-occupied properties to student rental properties in the area bounded by I-94, Fairview, St. Clair and the Mississippi River in order to conduct a study to determine measures to preserve the balance between student rental properties and owner-occupied properties. WSNAC supported the moratorium and testified at subsequent public hearings about the study. The committee ultimately testified in support of the recently adopted student rental house registration ordinance which appears in Legislative Code 67. The registration process began on August 8, 2012 and will close at midnight on December 5, 2012. WSNAC will continue to monitor the registration process and the effects of the legislation on the district.
St. Thomas liquor license. The committee spent two years considering alcohol service liquor license conditions for the St. Paul campus, including hours of service, days of service, frequency of sales, indoor and outdoor sales/service locations and a prohibition on operating an on-campus bar. The review culminated with WSNAC members and others testifying during three public hearings (Sept. 29, Oct. 6 and Dec. 8) held by a legislative hearing officer appointed by the City Council.
In those hearings, WSNAC supported all proposed license conditions except one: it sought to limit to one occasion (Homecoming) and one location (lower quad-student center plaza) per year for the outside sale of alcoholic beverages. St. Thomas supported unlimited occasions and nine potential outdoor locations (three in the first year).
The officer sided with St. Thomas on the outdoor location issue and recommended license approval to City Council. The council subsequently approved the conditions. The license was issued February 2, 2012. St. Thomas has reported monthly alcohol sale and event information to WSNAC. The committee is charged with reviewing all conditions before the license can be renewed in 2013.
Restorative justice. The Union Park District Council (UPDC) worked with the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), Project Remand, the St. Paul city attorney’s office and the St. Paul Police Department to develop a restorative justice program directed, at the court’s discretion, toward college students who have received citations for "quality of life offenses" in the UPDC area, i.e., with students who have received citations for underage consumption and social host violations.During summer 2012 UPDC conducted DRC-led staff training sessions and two restorative justice sessions which have seen successful outcomes. Five students participated in pre-meeting prep conferences and in restorative justice circles where they interfaced with trained neighbors and other participants, subsequently complying with the circles’ ultimate "sanction recommendations" such as performing community service and conducting research projects. By participating in, and completing, the pilot project, the charges were dismissed.
Student rental unit purchase and conversion/St. Thomas Housing Buyback Program. The university continues to make progress toward its obligation to complete the 30-rental-house purchase agreement stipulated by the 2004 CUP. Pursuant to paragraph 10 of the CUP, St. Thomas has converted twenty-four (24) properties to non-student, owner-occupancy for residential use only.
International Town & Gown Association conference attendance & program. In June 2010 and 2011, WSNAC members represented St. Thomas and WSNAC by attending three-day annual conferences of the International Town and Gown Association. Three WSNAC members attended the June 2012 conference in Richmond, KY, and presented a program outlining WSNAC’s history and the establishment of a positive and exemplary town-gown working relationship model.
Grand Avenue apartment complex development project. In April 2012, Graham Merry and Rob Page of Cullen LLC attended a WSNAC meeting to outline their proposal to construct a five-story, 20-unit, 80-bed apartment building on three lots located at the southwest corner of Grand and Finn. They plan to raze a student rental duplex at 2124 Grand and student rental house at 2130 Grand. The project also provides 40 (37 below grade) parking spaces. They informed the committee that the project did not require any zoning variances. Though committee members participated actively in the ensuing public hearings, city reviews and the City Council appeal processes, because of objections to building massing and parking congestion, the committee did not take a formal position on the issue. Construction commenced in late October 2012.
West Grand Avenue zoning study. Subsequent to the approval of the Grand/Finn apartment project, WSNAC expressed public support of the "dormitory style" Grand Avenue apartment construction moratorium and stated its willingness to participate actively in the proposed West Grand Avenue zoning study. The committee referred the matter to its Housing subcommittee.
Off-Campus and On-Campus Student Housing Report. In December 2011, WSNAC representatives completed a study related to concerns expressed by St. Thomas neighbors about maintaining the livability of their neighborhood in light of the number of student who live in rental properties near campus. The goal of the report was to contribute objective information toward the continuing dialogue among St. Thomas, WSNAC and community council representatives. The report was completed on the heels of the 2010-11 University of St. Thomas Student Housing Study and the May 2011 Louis Smith Partnership Feasibility Study, both of which were previously forwarded to the city council.
The Off-Campus and On-Campus Student Housing Report concluded, among other items, that St. Thomas and the community need to continue to work to reduce student disturbances in the neighborhood and encouraged St. Thomas to find the means to provide more on-campus student housing.