Town-Gown Relations:

Protecting Our Neighborhoods

West Chester is unique in many ways, and one thing that makes us unique is we have a University in town. As a result, we experience unique benefits and challenges.

 

The Benefits

 

The University offers tremendous cultural opportunities – including the WCU Live! Speaker Series which recently featured Garrison Keillor and Linda Ronsdtadt, ongoing art exhibitions, dance troupes, an annual jazz festival, fantastic musical performances, and one of my favorites – an international poetry festival that has been held for more than 20 years.

 

From a broader perspective, it’s hard to imagine what is more valuable to our overall social and economic health than the intellectual empowerment of the rising generations. WCU is one of just four PA schools ranked in the top 100 Kiplinger “best buys” in American public higher education, and almost one-quarter of undergraduates are the first in their families to receive a college education.

 

The Challenges

 

The vast majority of students bring creativity, vitality, and great intentions to West Chester. However, we all know college students are in a time of exploration – a time when they celebrate newfound freedom and test boundaries. Unfortunately for non-student residents, this can result in quality of life issues such as sleep deprivation, litter, and vandalism.

 

In addition, due to high demand for student housing and a high cost of home ownership in the Borough, rentals now comprise more than 60% of our total living units. We are second only to State College in terms of our rental:homeowner ratio among all communities in Pennsylvania. And, the most serious crimes that occur in West Chester – like assault and burglary – are more prevalent in these high-density rental areas.

 

While these issues are systemic and difficult to address, they require constant attention, action, and creative solutions.

 

Concrete Plans to Move Us Forward

 

I believe all residents of West Chester deserve quality of life, and this is why I am developing plans to move us forward together. These include:

 

  • Enforcement. With so many rentals in our Borough, we not only need rational rules and regulations, but we need to enforce them. I support enforcing the Borough’s authority to direct property owners to initiate eviction proceedings after two disruptive conduct citations, so renters know the boundaries of behavior in our Borough. I also support enforcement of other Borough ordinances that restrict the spread of student rentals throughout our neighborhoods and limit the number of unrelated people who can live together in one dwelling unit to four. I also support increased police patrols for roving noise issues, which is one of the more challenging issues to enforce. 

 

  • Continual improvement. It has been said the first question we should be asking when a problem surfaces is, how can our University help us? I will continue to ask this question, but I will also recognize that the Borough is an equal partner. We also need to ask: How do we help ourselves? What else can we do to support quality of life? I will look to other towns with Universities for model programs and lessons learned, so we can keep applying them to West Chester wherever possible.

 

  • Collaboration. I will be a strong voice as a member of the Borough-University Officials Group (and the Community-Campus Coalition), which meets regularly to review current issues and craft productive responses. I will also support the University’s Center for Community Solutions (https://www.wcupa.edu/externalOperations/ccs/).

 

  • Common vision. To move forward together, we need a common vision of where we want to go. I believe we can make progress if we work to build a stronger identity as a great and diverse town. I will help promote West Chester as a clean and proud community with so much to offer for all walks of life, whether young, old, or just starting a family. I will engage our University, our neighborhood groups, and our partners in developing programs that not only address our current needs, but address core issues that will help ensure the long term sustainability and prosperity of West Chester.

 

I hope you will join me in making our great town even better!