By UPUA President Terry Ford and IFC President Will Quaranta
The Centre Region Council of Governments (COG) Property Maintenance Code is a governing document for State College and other nearby townships that regulates housing and building safety and upkeep. Included in the Code is a Nuisance Property Ordinance that lists specific undesirable activities and penalizes property owners when their property is found to have been a nuisance to the community. This ordinance is of particular interest to students, as it affects rental housing units such as fraternity houses.
The ordinance states that for certain types of improper behavior, properties are assigned nuisance “points.” Each violation that occurs is assigned a point value from 1 to 3, depending on the severity of the violation. For example, overgrown lawns and weeds or trash on the lawn are one point violations while furnishing alcohol to minors or sexual assault are three point violations. Noise, indecent exposure, and simple assault are all examples of two point violations. When 10 or more points accumulate, a rental permit suspension notice is sent and the permit suspension process is initiated.
Tonight, the State College Borough Council will be presented with recommended amendments to the Property Maintenance Code from Borough staff and administrators. For example, the proposed changes disallow indoor furniture to be kept or used outside, enforce occupancy limits within a gated fence, and mandate that fraternity kitchens be inspected regularly.
While these changes themselves seem largely disagreeable to many students, the process by which they have been introduced is of far greater concern. Student input was not thoroughly solicited as these changes were formulated. In fact, the first real discussion regarding these changes that students participated in was on April 19, just a few short weeks before tonight’s Borough Council meeting. Additionally, tonight’s Council meeting falls on the first day of finals week, and if Council approves these changes tonight, they will go into effect over the summer while the majority of students are not in the State College area.
That’s why we are calling on the Borough Council to postpone any further consideration of this topic until the fall semester when students will have the opportunity to voice their support for or opposition to the proposed amendments. There are no pressing circumstances that require the Council to act immediately, so we hope that the members of Council will see the necessity of robust student engagement. The student voice must be heard, and tonight we will be sending a clear message that student input matters.