Housing to be central point in City Council election
Candidates differ on South Knoll plan
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, November 3, 2013 21:11
Students registered to vote in Brazos County have the opportunity Tuesday to affect the future governance of Bryan-College Station in local elections. Multiple positions are up for election, including the contested race for College Station City Council Place 2, which could be of particular importance for students.
Steve Aldrich and Gary Ives are on the ballot for the Place 2 election, and while both candidates have connections to A&M, each has a different idea of how to address housing plans like that of the South Knoll neighborhood.
The initial plan proposed to City Council for the South Knoll neighborhood would have limited to two the number of non-related residents living in a house and limited parking on neighborhood streets. In September, the council removed these two items and approved a stripped-down plan for the neighborhood.
Aldrich, a former student who works in the financial services industry in College Station, said one of most important issues for students has been housing in the community.
“Probably the most salient issue with regard to students at A&M and the city of College Station is, most recently, the South Knoll neighborhood plan,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich said he did not agree with the proposed South Knoll plan and said the solution for the neighborhood concerns should take into account students and families.
“I don’t think it really behooves our community to make distinctions between ‘part-time’ and ‘permanent’ residents,” Aldrich said. “I mean, you’re here and you are in this community, so let’s figure out the community solution to our issues and lets look for what can continue to make College Station, Texas, just as attractive to people in the future as it was to me when I came here in 1976.”
Aldrich said both students and families will have to make sacrifices in neighborhoods.
“Here is the whole deal for me — renters have responsibilities in a community, land-owners have responsibilities in a community, non-student residents who live in a single family neighborhood have responsibilities and so does the city of College Station,” Aldrich said.
Gary Ives, a retired librarian from Evans Library and husband of a professor in the English department at Texas A&M, said his service as the president of the SpringBrook Homeowner’s Association in College Station encouraged him to voice a different point of view in City Council.
“The most important issue to our members has been the issue of renters and absentee owners, and not just students, but any renters, any absentee owner situation,” Ives said. “The rental issue is perhaps a flashpoint for a whole cluster of issues that surround student and town relations.”
Ives said he spoke in support of the South Knoll neighborhood plan at City Council and that many problems arise for families when renters enter the neighborhood.
“Once an area starts becoming predominately rental, it’s no longer a family-oriented neighborhood,” Ives said. “Areas that are subject to rental and absentee ownership are destructive to what is commonly termed as ‘neighborhood integrity’ and become an unpleasant place for families to try to raise their kids, to lead a quieter non-student lifestyle.”
Throughout the citywide discussion on the South Knoll plan, many residents expressed their concerns with rowdy student neighbors throwing loud parties and overcrowding on streets due to parking.
“Folks who spoke at the City Council spoke of extreme examples,” Ives said. “In one case, where there had been friction between a homeowner and a rental resident, the homeowner found a severed animal head on their porch.”
Ives said that although the solution to the problem is not a one-way-street, students can alleviate the problem by being more respectful to their neighbors.
“If students had a better understanding of the sensitivities of a neighborhood, maybe that could improve relations between those who are here as students and those who have chosen to be here raising their families,” Ives said.
Ives said he hopes the city will be family friendly and student friendly.
“I would like the students who are here, both at Blinn and A&M, to feel that [College Station] is as student friendly as it is friendly to anybody else,” Ives said.
Sherry Mashburn, city secretary, said student turnout varies with each election, but that she expects more students are interested this election because of the recent South Knoll debate.
“Students tend to turn out for the big ones, such as the presidential elections and if there is something that is really close to their heart,” Mashburn said.
Mashburn said she hopes students will become more involved in the City Council so that they can try to make College Station a better place for future residents.
“Given the number of students enrolled at A&M, it is pitifully small of the number of students involved,” Mashburn said. “You have close to 50,000 students, and we may hear from 10.”
Mayor Nancy Berry is unopposed for a second term.
In addition to the City Council elections, nine Texas constitutional amendments are up for a vote on the same ballot Tuesday. All constitutional propositions require a majority affirmation vote to pass.
On voting day, students can only vote in their precinct, which is designated on their voter registration card. If students live in Precinct 20, they can vote in the MSC polling location. Students living in other precincts may locate their polling location on brazosvote.org. Voting takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.