Crazy idea for improving town-gown relations
According to the Baltimore Sun, in "Towson looks for solutions to town-gown relations," Baltimore County Councilman David Marks of District 5, the location of Towson University and Goucher College, has organized the Greater Towson Residential Task Force, which includes county officials, university leaders, students and neighbors.
From the article:
Marks asked the task force Wednesday to explore creating a special overlay zone for Towson University, that would require additional rules and penalties for residential areas near the school, and take a look at the code enforcement process and whether property owners have sufficient tools to evict problem tenants.
He also wants them to look at ways to enhance neighborhood stability and accommodate student renters. "I'd like you to be imaginative," he said. Some residents on the task force complained that some consider Towson a college town.
"We're losing people to other parts of the county, and they're never coming back," said Mike Ertel, a past president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. He said Towson is losing starter homes in neighborhoods such as Burkleigh Square to college renters.
Local landlord Randy Cooper said being a college town has its benefits.
"Instead of us against them, we should be celebrating," said Cooper, who is not related to the university spokeswoman. He spoke of student spending on local businesses.
Towson University senior Scott Rappaport, one of the school's community ambassadors, said students and neighbors need to work together.
"I feel like residents have a preconceived notion that students are going to come in and cause havoc. So, students feel like they're being attacked because they're not being given a chance," said Rappaport, 21. "We need residents and students to really trust each other."
When I worked in Towson (Sept 2009-June 2010) there was no question that the pedestrian activity in the retail district was mostly generated by Towson University students. At the same time, this shapes the retail offer in particular ways, towards fast food and other types of convenience retail, not unlike how the commercial strip on Rte. 1 in College Park, Maryland is very much oriented to the kind of retail that appeals to people 18-25 years old.
On the other hand, most communities lack the kind of energy that a college campus can generate, and this energy is key to retail revitalization in those communities.
Greater Greater Washington has had a number of pieces about the updating of the Georgetown University campus plan and neighborhood opposition, which can be pretty virulent. The Northwest Current community newspaper recently had an article (March 9th edition) about American University's desire to build a dormitory on a parking lot on Nebraska Avenue and local opposition, because of a perception that this is too close to the abutting neighborhood.
In College Park, Maryland, there is a University student liason to the City Council, appointed by the college student government (see "College Park finalizes guidelines for UM liaison attendance: Student representative could be removed for missing too many council meetings" from the Gazette).
I can't claim that these kinds of University-neighborhood task forces will all of these kinds of problems, but they have to help.