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Where are We with High Occupancy Housing?

Jerry NaboursThere is a lot of talk lately about high occupancy housing. You can also call it high density housing or student housing. It all comes down to a four- or five-story apartment complex with a lot of students in it. Here are some of the issues:

Zoning – If a particular property already has the appropriate zoning, the owner can build an apartment building. There are various requirements for things like parking, lighting and height. A 60-foot height limitation has been in place for 25 years. The city cannot stop an apartment building if the zoning is in place and the requirements are met.

Policing – From a policing standpoint, is it better to have 400 students in one place or spread out in houses all over town? The police tell me there are pros and cons to each situation. The police have been successful in getting most complexes to voluntarily comply with crime-free policies. The City Council enacted a nuisance party ordinance that gives police more enforcement tools against landlords who allow parties.

Location – Assuming an apartment builder needs and wants a change of zoning to build a complex, where is an appropriate location? Should the housing be within walking distance of NAU? Should it be on the edge of town away from other housing? Should it revitalize a run-down area? Should it be near other similar housing? Every proposed location has good points and bad.

On-Campus – Some people say all students should be housed on campus. NAU houses about 50 percent of its students, which is a very high percentage for any university. Not all students want to live on campus. The private housing market would have a legitimate complaint that government is unfairly competing if too much housing is on state property. What is the appropriate balance?

Public Forums – The city wants you to learn about the issues and help formulate some plans. There have already been several open house community meetings and there will be more opportunities through 2016 and into spring.

If you have the answers, I want to hear from you. FBN

By Jerry Nabours

Jerry Nabours is the mayor of Flagstaff. Opinions in this column are his own and not necessarily the views of the City Council.

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