City council sizes up on-campus housing

On March 12, 2008, the Burlington City Council sat down to discuss a UVM housing proposal in which 70 percent of UVM’s student body would have to live on campus by 2014. The proposal came after another proposal was introduced that would re-zone part of UVM’s campus and downtown Burlington. Part of the zoning agreement is to build more housing on UVM’s campus to eliminate the crowded residential area in downtown Burlington. Burlington has a two percent vacancy rate, which doesn’t leave many options for people to come and live in Burlington, Chittenden 3-4 State Representative Kesha Ram said.”The main purpose of the proposal was to offset the growth of the student body and expand student housing more generally, ensuring that they keep a large amount of students on campus and let students who want to live on campus live there,” Ram said. City counselor Tim Ashe shared this sentiment.”UVM needs to improve their housing stock and I advocate them building more housing to make the quality of life experience be superior to what it is now,” he said. At the Burlington City Council meeting, the proposal changed into a document called a memorandum of understanding (MOU), a non-legally binding agreement that is made in situations where two parties share a common goal. “Anything regarding mandatory residence was stripped out of the proposal,” Burlington City Council member Ed Adrian said. Despite this progress, the council meeting also saw some moments of conflict. “Some members of City Council were making orders that were seen as obstructionist in the meeting. The police were called during a break in the city meeting,” Ram said. The meeting conclusion was not clear, but the discussion has continued in the Burlington community. “I think that it is absurd that the UVM administration is shoving students into triples. The same thing happened when I started UVM in 1988 and it had major, long-term ramifications on attracting new students to UVM,” Adrian said. “Any increase in undergraduate enrollment should be met with an increase in dorm space so that students are treated with dignity and respect and not like chattel for the school to use and make a quick buck.”As of now the MOU says that UVM should put in 400 new beds in apartment-style housing on Redstone Campus and that UVM should have a one-to-one ratio of students in housing, City Counselor Paul said. A one-to-one ratio means that “for every new student they house on campus, they will create another bed on campus,” Ram said. UVM is talking to the administration of the city and they are trying to figure out what to do. The conversations are still ongoing, UVM’s vice president of finance and administration, Richard Cate said. “We are hopeful that we can work out an agreement that meets the needs of the city and of UVM without having to deal with it via a local statute or ordinance,” Cate said. “I understand the city’s concern and they are asking us to keep from having a heavier demand of what there is downtown. The only thing we can think of is building housing that students prefer on campus,” Cate said. “I don’t think we need to make it mandatory for juniors to live on campus but we do need to, to keep from crowding the Burlington area.”A public forum was held on March 23 and there will be another meeting on March 30 to discuss and amend the housing MOU.