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When I ran for City Council in 1993, mini-dorms were an issue. At that time, the typical mini-dorm was a standard home which the owner had lived in at one time and was choosing to rent to a group of students rather than sell. The behavior and traffic were problems and were not being addressed by the city. Left essentially unaddressed for more than 10 years, the situation has now grown to unbelievable proportions.
Let’s be clear — these are no longer standard homes. Instead, many have been purchased for the express purpose of creating a mini-dorm. The internal structures have been modified such that living rooms and family rooms are now bedrooms. Garages are converted to bedrooms and worse, there are now add-on’s that allow even more people to occupy the property.
As I walk from door-to-door, I have learned that you can spot these properties instantly. There is little or no living landscaping. More likely, there is concrete where you or I would have a lawn. There are additions that can only be described as weird. As you walk through the neighborhood, some of the sounds and smells emanating from these structures are just plain embarrassing. And this is a July/August experience — school hasn’t even started yet!
You’ve seen much in the paper that implies the situation is improving, but “on the ground” in the College Area, things are getting worse rapidly.
The first case in point is the residence at 4966 Campanile Drive.
According to city records, this is supposedly a 4-bedroom home. It is advertised in the Daily Aztec, however, as a “huge” 7-bedroom home, “completely remodeled.” The neighbors are outraged … here is a short version of the story.
One of the neighbors, Jerry Stevenson, filed a complaint with Neighborhood Code Compliance (NCCD). NCCD contacted the owner of the property and an inspection was scheduled for July 30. This was three weeks after the initial complaint was filed. Predictably, the house was cleared out over the weekend prior to the inspection so that when inspected, NCCD found four bedrooms. Oh yes, there was also a den and an office with “minimal” furniture, but no beds. On July 31, students and furniture moved back in.
A second neighbor, Susan Hopps, suggested to the NCCD representative that perhaps a surprise inspection might be warranted to determine exactly how many rooms were being used as bedrooms (remember the 7-bedroom ad in the Aztec). Now, this seems pretty logical to me … but the NCCD representative hemmed and hawed, said it was up to her supervisor, that the policy varied, etc etc etc. Worse, the NCCD employee told this Susan Hopps that she had already talked to Jerry Stevenson at length on this subject and was tired of talking to him about it … and, in fact, didn’t want to talk to him anymore.
A second case in point is the residence at 5867 Baja Drive — right around the corner from the first situation. There, a new person took ownership on July 25th and immediately began converting the garage to a bedroom and making other internal changes to the house. A neighbor contacted NCCD and learned that no building permits have been applied for at that address. Requests for investigation have been made, but the conversion continues.
These aren’t the only two examples and this specific neighborhood isn’t the only one with this problem. With school about to begin, the entire community is under siege. These folks need action, not conversation.
This all goes back to what I said earlier. We need to get back to basics. What is the point of laws and codes if they aren’t enforced? Why would you build roads or bridges and then not maintain them?
— APRIL BOLING