Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bowling Green, Ohio Enforces Zoning Code - Why Can't We?

The following is from the BGNews of Bowling Green University in Ohio. The university there has about 20,000 students, who, I am told, almost outnumber the permanent residents. For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you will find some familiar concepts that I have advanced in prior blog entries. First and foremost is the confirmation that these laws on single family zoning can be enforced. Second is my analysis of the rental market wherein I posited that rents are distorted by illegal rooming houses. This article should give support and confidence to the members of the City Council and the Mayor as they move toward an effective program to eliminate illegal rooming houses in Bellingham. They will be doing the right thing.

"City ordinance sets cap at three for unrelated individuals in a single house

By: Lisa Halverstadt

Posted: 1/16/08

When senior Jenna Sobb and five of her friends moved into a five-bedroom house on Troup Avenue, she didn't know much about a city ordinance that does not allow such an arrangement. By letting six University students live in the home, her landlord violated a zoning rule that bars more than three unrelated people from living in a rented home. Code enforcement officers soon discovered the roommates were violating the law and asked the roommates to cooperate with investigators. Three were ordered to move out.

Their landlord, Douglas Cheetwood, had separate agreements with the three students who weren't on the lease and had allowed them to mail their rent checks to him, according to court records. Six male University students who lived in the house last school year had a similar arrangement. Their parents signed agreements and mailed checks to Cheetwood.

By Jan. 9, Cheetwood was convicted of 200 violations of city code. Cheetwood could be fined nearly $50,000 if he violates the code again during his two-year probation. Fellow Bowling Green landlord John Frobose was charged in November with 82 counts of zoning violations. The owner of Frobose Rentals is accused of allowing five women to live in one of his Orchard Circle properties and according to court records, encouraging them to "keep a low profile" and "most importantly keep[ing] the cars to a minimum of three." Frobose will appear at Bowling Green Municipal Court tomorrow at 1 p.m.

City Prosecutor Matt Reger said city officials will continue to investigate zoning violations and uphold the ordinance created in 1975. Nearly all of the violations have involved college-aged people and while it may appear otherwise, Reger said the ordinance is made to protect them. "Students sometimes believe that we are attempting to do something that hurts them," he said. " I understand that [...] but in a way, we're helping students so that rent goes down." If landlords want students to live at their properties, they'll have to lower their rents so it's affordable for three students to live in home, he said.

When the city began cracking down on zoning violations in 2005, then-Undergraduate Student Government President Alex Wright and other students opposed the law. Landlords didn't like it either. In February 2005, Frobose and others told The BG News they thought the ordinance should be updated to reflect change in the community and society. Though he acknowledged the community has changed since the ordinance was created, Reger said students should realize they don't benefit from living with more than three other students. "The landlords are the only ones who benefit," he said."

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